Yahya ibn Zakariyya
|John the Baptist|
|Bartolomeo Veneto, 16th century|
|Prophet, Martyr, Saint|
Late 1st century BC|
AD 31 – 36|
|Honored in||Aglipayan Church, Anglicanism, Assyrian Church of the East, Bahá'í Faith, Eastern Orthodox Church, Islam, Lutheranism, Mandeanism, Oriental Orthodox Churches, Roman Catholic Churches|
|Major shrine||Church of St John the Baptist, Jerusalem|
June 24 (Nativity),|
August 29 (Beheading),
January 7 (Synaxis,
Thout 2 (Coptic Orthodox Church)
|Attributes||Camel-skin robe, cross, lamb, scroll with words "Ecce Agnus Dei", platter with own head, pouring water from hands or scallop shell|
|Patronage||Patron saint of Jordan, Puerto Rico, Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, French Canada, Newfoundland, Cesena, Florence, Genoa, Monza, Porto, San Juan, Turin, Xewkija, and many other places.|
John the Baptist (Hebrew: יוחנן המטביל, Yoḥanan ha-mmaṭbil, Arabic: يوحنا المعمدان Yuhanna Al-Ma'madan, Aramaic: ܝܘܚܢܢ Ioḥanan, Greek: Ὁ Ἅγιος/Τίμιος Ἐνδοξος Προφήτης, Πρόδρομος καὶ Βαπτιστής Ἰωάννης Ho Hágios/Tímios Endoxos, Prophḗtēs, Pródromos, kaì Baptistḗs Ioánnes) was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure in Christianity, Islam, the Bahá'í Faith, and Mandaeism.
John is described as having the unique practice of baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Most scholars agree that John baptized Jesus. Scholars generally believe Jesus was as a follower or disciple of John  and several New Testament accounts report that some of Jesus's early followers had previously been followers of John. John the Baptist is also mentioned by Jewish historian Josephus Some scholars maintain that John was influenced by the semi-ascetic Essenes, who expected an apocalypse and practiced rituals corresponding strongly with baptism, although no direct evidence substantiates this.
According to the New Testament, John anticipated a messianic figure greater than himself, and Jesus was the one whose coming John foretold. Christians commonly refer to John as the precursor or forerunner of Jesus, since John announces Jesus' coming. John is also identified with the prophet Elijah.
- 1 In Josephus's "Antiquities of the Jews"
- 2 Gospel narratives
- 3 In the Qur'an
- 4 Relics
- 5 Religious views
- 5.1 Christianity
- 5.2 Islam
- 5.3 Bahá'í view
- 5.4 Gnostic and anthroposophic views
- 6 In art
- 7 Commemoration
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Notes
- 11 External links
In Josephus's "Antiquities of the Jews"
The 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus gives a slightly different account in his Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus writes that Herod had John arrested because John had so many followers that Herod feared they might begin a rebellion. Herod later had him executed (Ant. 18.116-118).
"Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise,) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties, by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death. Now the Jews had an opinion that the destruction of this army was sent as a punishment upon Herod, and a mark of God's displeasure to him.
The earliest known reference to this passage can be found in the early third century when it is quoted by Origen in Contra Celsum. According to this passage, the execution of John was blamed for a defeat Herod suffered c. 36 AD. Divergences between the passage's presentation and the biblical accounts of John include baptism for those whose souls have already been "purified beforehand by righteousness" is for purification of the body, not general repentance of sin (Mark 1:4). Biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan differentiates between Josephus's account of John and Jesus, saying, "John had a monopoly, but Jesus had a franchise." To get baptized, Crossan writes, you went only to John; to stop the movement one only needed to stop John (therefore his movement ended with his death). Jesus invited all to come and see how he and his companions had already accepted the government of God, entered it and were living it. Such a communal praxis was not just for himself, but could survive without him, unlike John's movement.
All four canonical Gospel record John the Baptist's ministry, as does the non-canonical Gospel of the Nazarenes. In the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), Jesus's baptism is depicted, while its implied in the John.
The Gospel of Mark begins with an quotation from Isaiah of a messenger, a voice "crying aloud in the wilderness". John the Baptist is described as someone "in the wilderness", wearing clothes of "camel's hair", living on "locusts and wild honey".
Mark describes John's proclamation of baptism for the forgiveness of sin. Mark also describes John as preaching a future leader who "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit".
Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan, whereupon Jesus has vision, seeing "the heavens split open and the Spirit coming down to him like a dove, and from the heavens came a voice — “You are my dearly loved son; you bring me great joy."
In the gospel account of John's death, Herod has John imprisoned for denouncing his incestuous marriage, and later executes John by beheading. John condemned Herod for marrying Herodias (who was not only his brother Philip's former wife but also Herod's niece) in violation of Old Testament law. Later Herodias's daughter (traditionally called Salome) who was both Herod's grand-niece and stepdaughter) dances before Herod, who offers her a favour in return. Herodias tells her to ask for the head of John the Baptist, which is delivered to her on a plate (Mark 6:14-29).
Later, Herod learns that some people claim Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead.
|John the Baptist in The Gospel of Mark|
It is said in the prophet Isaiah — ‘I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. The voice of one crying aloud in the wilderness: “Prepare the road for the Lord, make a straight path for him.”’
John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism on repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. The whole of Judea, as well as all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, went out to him; and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
John wore clothes made of camels’ hair, with a leather strap around his waist, and lived on locusts and wild honey; and he proclaimed — “After me is coming someone more powerful than I am, and I am not fit even to stoop down and unfasten his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Now about that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Spirit coming down to him like a dove, and from the heavens came a voice — “You are my dearly loved son; you bring me great joy.”
Now King Herod heard of Jesus; for his name had become well known. People were saying — “John the Baptizer must have risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are active in him.” Others again said — “He is Elijah,” and others — “He is a prophet, like one of the great prophets.” But when Herod heard of him, he said — “The man whom I beheaded — John — he must be risen!”
For Herod himself had sent and arrested John, and put him in prison, in chains, to please Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because Herod had married her. For John had said to Herod — “You have no right to be living with your brother’s wife.” So Herodias was incensed against John, and wanted to put him to death, but was unable to do so, because Herod stood in fear of John, knowing him to be an upright and holy man, and protected him. He had listened to John, but still remained much perplexed, and yet he found pleasure in listening to him.
A suitable opportunity, however, occurred when Herod, on his birthday, gave a dinner to his high officials, and his generals, and the foremost men in Galilee. When his daughter — that is, the daughter of Herodias — came in and danced, she delighted Herod and those who were dining with him. “Ask me for whatever you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you”; and he swore to her that he would give her whatever she asked him — up to half his kingdom. The girl went out, and said to her mother “What must I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptizer,’ answered her mother. So she went in as quickly as possible to the king, and made her request. “I want you,” she said, “to give me at once, on a dish, the head of John the Baptist.” The king was much distressed; yet, because of his oath and of the guests at his table, he did not like to refuse her. He immediately dispatched one of his bodyguard, with orders to bring John’s head. The man went and beheaded John in the prison, 28 and, bringing his head on a dish, gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.
When John’s disciples heard of it, they came and took his body away, and laid it in a tomb.
As in Mark, Matthew explicitly states that "John was the one who was spoken of in the prophet Isaiah" as the voice "crying aloud in the wilderness". John is again described as being "in the wilderness", wearing clothes of "camel's hair", living on "locusts and wild honey". John preaches baptism for the forgiveness of sin and he proclaims a future leader who "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit".
Unlike Mark, Matthew records John being critical of Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew records John as preaching "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" and a "coming judgment".
As in Mark, Jesus seeks out John to be baptized. In Matthew, however, John recognizes Jesus as unique and objects to the baptism, saying “I need to be baptized by you, so why have you come to me”. After Jesus insists, John baptizes Jesus in the Jordan. Upon the baptism, the heavens open and a voice from heaven addresses the assembled masses, proclaiming "This is my dearly loved son, who brings me great joy."
As in Mark, the reader is told of John's arrest for criticizing Herod and subsequent execution. In Matthew's version, Herod himself believes Jesus to be John the Baptist risen from the dead. Matthew also records that after John's burial, John's disciples "went and told Jesus."
|John the Baptist in the Gospel of Matthew|
About that time John the Baptist first appeared, proclaiming in the wilderness of Judea: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John was the one who was spoken of in the prophet Isaiah, where he says —
‘The voice of one crying aloud in the wilderness: “Make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”’
John’s clothes were made of camels’ hair, with a leather strap around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, and all Judea, as well as the whole district of the Jordan, went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to receive his baptism, he said to them:
“You children of snakes! Who has prompted you to seek refuge from the coming judgment? Let your life, then, prove your repentance; and do not think that you can 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 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. I, indeed, baptize you with water to teach repentance; but he who is coming after me is more powerful than I, and I am not fit even to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, and store his grain in the barn, but the chaff he will burn with a fire that cannot be put out.”
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan, to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent him. “I need to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why have you come to me?” “This is the way it should be for now,” Jesus answered, “because we should do everything that God requires.” So John agreed.
After the baptism of Jesus, and just as he came up from the water, the heavens opened, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him, and from the heavens there came a voice which said: “This is my dearly loved son, who brings me great joy.”
Now John had heard in prison what the Christ was doing, and he sent a message by his disciples, and asked — ” Are you ‘the coming one,’ or are we to look for someone else?” The answer of Jesus to the question was — “Go and report to John what you hear and see — the blind recover their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are made clean and the deaf hear, the dead, too, are raised to life, and the good news is told to the poor. Blessed is the person who finds no hindrance in me.”
While John’s disciples were going back, Jesus began to say to the crowds 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 richly dressed? Why, those who wear rich things are to be found in the courts of kings! What, then, did you go for? 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.’ I tell you, no one born of a woman has yet appeared who is greater than John the Baptist; and yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the time of John the Baptist to this very hour, the kingdom of heaven has been taken by force, and people using force have been seizing it. For the teaching of all the prophets and of the law continued until the time of John; and — if you are ready to accept it — John is himself the Elijah who was destined to come. Let him who has ears hear. But to what will I compare the present generation? It is like little children sitting in the market-places and calling out to their playmates — ‘We have played the flute for you, but you have not danced; We have wailed, but you have not mourned.’ For, when John came, neither eating nor drinking, people said ‘He has a demon in him’; and now that the Son of Man has come, eating and drinking, they are saying ‘Here is a glutton and a wine-drinker, a friend of tax-gatherers and outcasts!’ And yet wisdom is vindicated by her actions.”
At that time Prince Herod heard of the fame of Jesus, and said to his attendants: “This must be John the Baptist; he must be risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are active in him.” For Herod had arrested John, put him in chains, and shut him up in prison, to please Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. For John had said to him ‘You have no right to be living with her.’ Yet, though Herod wanted to put him to death, he was afraid of the people, because they looked on John as a prophet. But, when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before his guests, and so pleased Herod, that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, the girl said ‘Give me here, on a dish, the head of John the Baptist.’ The king was distressed at this; yet, because of his oath and of the guests at his table, he ordered it to be given her. He sent and beheaded John in the prison; 11 and his head was brought on a dish and given to the girl, and she took it to her mother. Then John’s disciples came, and took the body away, and buried it; and went and told Jesus.
In Luke and Acts
The Gospel of Luke includes an account of John's infancy, introducing him as the son of Zechariah, an old man, and his wife Elizabeth, who was barren. According to this account, the birth of John was foretold by the angel Gabriel to Zachariah, while Zachariah was performing his functions as a priest in the temple of Jerusalem. Since Zachariah is described as a priest of the course of Abijah and his wife, Elizabeth, as one of the daughters of Aaron, this would make John a descendant of Aaron on both his father's and mother's side.
There is no mention of a family relationship between John and Jesus in the other Gospels, and the scholar Raymond E. Brown has described it as "of dubious historicity". Géza Vermes has called it "artificial and undoubtedly Luke's creation". On the basis of the account in Luke, the Catholic calendar placed the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist on June 24, six months before Christmas.
The many similarities between the Gospel of Luke story of the birth of John and the Old Testament account of the birth of Samuel have led scholars to suggest that Luke's account of the annunciation and birth of Jesus are modeled on that of Samuel.
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 Book of Acts portrays the disciples of John as eventually merging into the followers of Jesus (Acts 18:24-19:6), a development not reported by the gospels except for the early case of Andrew, Simon Peter's brother (John 1:35-42).
|John the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke and Acts|
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.
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,” they said to Jesus, “Often fast and say prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, while yours are eating and drinking!”
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 the baptist as "a man sent from God [...] to bear witness to the light so that through him everyone might believe."
John directly denies being the Christ or Elijah or 'the prophet', instead describing himself as a "voice 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 "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" (Vulgate: illum oportet crescere me autem minui). [John 3:30]]
The Gospel of John then points out that Jesus' disciples were baptizing more people than John (John 4:2). 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" (John 5:35).
|John the Baptist in the Gospel of John|
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, 36 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, 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. 36 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.’
- 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.
In Matthew, the voice from heaven does not address Jesus personally, saying instead "This is my dearly loved son, who brings me great joy."
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
Gospels vary in their depiction of John's relationship to Luke 1:16–17)."
In the Qur'an
In the Qur'an, God frequently mentions Zechariah's continuous praying for the birth of a son. Zechariah's wife, mentioned in the New Testament as Elizabeth, was barren and therefore the birth of a child seemed impossible. As a gift from God, Zechariah was given a son by the name of "John", a name specially chosen for this child alone. In accordance with Zechariah's prayer, God made John and Jesus, who according to exegesis was born six months later, renew the message of God, which had been corrupted and lost by the Israelites. As the Qur'an says:
(His prayer was answered): "O Zakariya! We give thee good news of a son: His name shall be Yahya: on none by that name have We conferred distinction before."
He said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son, when my wife is barren and I have grown quite decrepit from old age?"
He said: "So (it will be) thy Lord saith, 'that is easy for Me: I did indeed create thee before, when thou hadst been nothing!'"
(Zakariya) said: "O my Lord! give me a Sign." "Thy Sign," was the answer, "Shall be that thou shalt speak to no man for three nights."
John was exhorted to hold fast to the Scripture and was given wisdom by God while still a child. He was pure and devout, and walked well in the presence of God. He was dutiful towards his parents and he was not arrogant or rebellious. John's reading and understanding of the scriptures, when only a child, surpassed even that of the greatest scholars of the time. Muslim exegesis narrates that Jesus sent John out with twelve disciples, who preached the message before Jesus called his own disciples. The Qur'an says of John:
(To Zachariah's son came the command): "O John! take hold of the Book with might": and We gave him Wisdom even as a youth,
John was a classical prophet, who was exalted high by God, for his bold denouncing of all things sinful. Furthermore, the Qur'an speaks of John's gentle pity and love for all creatures and his humble attitude towards life, for which he was granted the Purity of Life:
And piety (for all creatures) as from Us, and purity: He was devout,
And kind to his parents, and he was not overbearing or rebellious.
So Peace on him the day he was born, the day that he dies, and the day that he will be raised up to life (again)!
John is also honored highly in Sufism as well as Islamic mysticism, primarily because of the Qur'an's description of John's chastity and kindness. Sufis have frequently applied commentaries on John's passages on the Qur'an, primarily concerning God-given gift of "Wisdom" which he acquired in youth as well as his parallels with Jesus. Although several phrases used to describe John and Jesus are virtually identical in the Qur'an, the manner in which they are expressed is different.
The burial-place of John the Baptist was at Sebaste in Samaria, and mention is made of his relics being honored there around the middle of the 4th century. The historians Rufinus and Theodoretus record that the shrine was desecrated under Julian the Apostate around 362, the bones being partly burned. A portion of the rescued relics were carried to Jerusalem, then to Alexandria, where on May 27, 395, they were laid in the basilica newly dedicated to the Forerunner on the former site of the temple of Serapis. The tomb at Sebaste continued, nevertheless, to be visited by pious pilgrims, and St. Jerome bears witness to miracles being worked there.
What became of the head of John the Baptist is difficult to determine. Nicephorus and Symeon Metaphrastes say that Herodias had it buried in the fortress of Machaerus (in accordance with Josephus). Other writers say that it was interred in Herod's palace at Jerusalem; there it was found during the reign of Constantine I, and thence secretly taken to Emesa, in Phoenicia, where it was concealed, the place remaining unknown for years, until it was manifested by revelation in 453. However, the decapitation cloth of St. John is kept at the Aachen Cathedral. The Coptic Christian Orthodox Church also claim to hold the relics of St. John the Baptist. These are to be found in a monastery in Lower Egypt between Cairo and Alexandria. It is possible, with permission from the monks, to see the original tomb where the remains were found. An obscure and surprising claim relates to the town of Halifax in West Yorkshire, United Kingdom, where the Baptist's head appears on the official coat-of-arms. A legend first recorded in the late 16th century and reported in William Camden's Britannia accounts for the town's place-name, as 'halig' (holy) and 'fax' (face), by stating that the first religious settlers of the district brought the 'face' of John the Baptist with them.
Several different locations claim to possess the severed head of John the Baptist. Among them: Umayyad Mosque in Damascus; San Silvestro in Capite in Rome; and the Residenz Museum in Munich, Germany (official residence of the Wittelsbach rulers of Bavaria from 1385 to 1918). Other heads were once said to be held by the Knights Templar at Amiens Cathedral in France (brought home by Wallon de Sarton from the Fourth Crusade in Constantinople), at Antioch in Turkey (fate uncertain), and the parish church at Tenterden in Kent, where it was preserved up until the Reformation.
The saint's right hand, with which he baptised Jesus, is claimed to be in the Serbian Orthodox Cetinje monastery in Montenegro; Topkapi Palace in Istanbul; and also in the Romanian skete of the Forerunner on Mount Athos. The saint's left hand is allegedly preserved in the Armenian Apostolic Church of St. John at Chinsurah, West Bengal, where each year on "Chinsurah Day" in January it blesses the Armenians of Calcutta. A crypt and relics said to be John's and mentioned in 11th- and 16th-century manuscripts, were discovered in 1969 during restoration of the Church of St. Macarius at the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great in Scetes, Egypt; Additional relics are claimed to reside in Gandzasar Monastery's Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, in Nagorno Karabakh;
In 2010, bones were discovered in the ruins of a Bulgarian church and two years later, after DNA and radio carbon testing proved the bones belonged to a Middle Eastern man who lived in the 1st century AD, scientists said that the remains could conceivably have belonged to John the Baptist. The remains include six human bones: a knucklebone from the right hand, a tooth, part of a cranium, a rib, and an ulna, or forearm bone.
Old Testament as prophesying John
|This section improperly uses one or more religious texts as primary sources without referring to secondary sources that critically analyze them. (February 2011)|
Christians believe that John the Baptist had a specific role ordained by God as forerunner or precursor of Jesus, who was the foretold Messiah. The New Testament Gospels speak of this role. In Luke 1:17 the role of John is referred to as being "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." In Luke 1:76 as "...thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways" and in Luke 1:77 as being "To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins."
There are several passages within the Old Testament which are interpreted by Christians as being prophetic of John the Baptist in this role. These include a passage in the Book of Malachi 3:1 that refers to a prophet who would prepare the way of the Lord:
"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts." — Malachi 3:1
and also at the end of the next chapter in Malachi 4:5-6 where it says,
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
The Jews of Jesus' day expected Elijah to come before the Messiah; indeed, some modern Jews continue to await Elijah's coming as well, as in the Cup of Elijah the Prophet in the Passover Seder. This is why the disciples ask Jesus in Matthew 17:10, 'Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?.' The disciples are then told by Jesus that Elijah came in the person of John the Baptist,
(see also 11.14: "...if you are willing to believe their message, John is Elijah, whose coming was predicted.")
"Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist". — Matthew 17:11-13
These passages are applied to John in the Synoptic Gospels. But where Matthew specifically identifies John the Baptist as Elijah (11.14, 17.13), the gospels of Mark and Luke do not actually make that identification, and the Gospel of John states that John the Baptist denied that he was Elijah. Thus there was apparently a shift in eschatological beliefs. (Where Matthew evidently believed that the final judgment was imminent, later authors would have been forced to concede that that "great and terrible day" had not been so imminent after all):
"Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ." They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." — John 1:19-21
Early Jewish Christian sects
Among the early Judaistic (or Gnostic, according to Epiphanius in Panarion, part 30) Christian groups the Ebionites held that John, along with Jesus and James the Just—all of whom they revered—were vegetarians. Epiphanius of Salamis records that this group had amended their Gospel of Matthew, known today as the Gospel of the Ebionites, to change where John eats "locusts" to read "honey cakes" or "manna".
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Eastern Orthodox faithful believe that John was the last of the Old Testament prophets, thus serving as a bridge between that period of revelation and the New Covenant. They also teach that, following his death, John descended into Hades and there once more preached that Jesus the Messiah was coming, so he was the Forerunner of Christ in death as he had been in life. According to Sacred Tradition, John the Baptist appears at the time of death to those who have not heard the Gospel of Christ, and preaches the Good News to them, that all may have the opportunity to be saved. Orthodox churches will often have an icon of St. John the Baptist in a place of honor on the iconostasis, and he is frequently mentioned during the Divine Services. Every Tuesday throughout the year is dedicated to his memory.
- September 23 — Conception of St. John the Forerunner
- January 7 — The Synaxis of St. John the Forerunner. This is his main feast day, immediately after Theophany on January 6 (January 7 also commemorates the transfer of the relic of the right hand of John the Baptist from Antioch to Constantinople in 956)
- February 24 — First and Second Finding of the Head of St. John the Forerunner
- May 25 — Third Finding of the Head of St. John the Forerunner
- June 24 — Nativity of St. John the Forerunner
- August 29 — The Beheading of St. John the Forerunner
In addition to the above, September 5 is the commemoration of Zechariah and Elisabeth, St. John's parents. The Russian Orthodox Church observes October 12 as the Transfer of the Right Hand of the Forerunner from Malta to Gatchina (1799).
The Roman Catholic Church commemorates St. John the Baptist on two feast days:
Some Catholics have held to a belief that John the Baptist never sinned, though this has never been a point of doctrine and is not binding in belief upon any adherent as is the sinlessness of Mary. In her Treatise of Prayer, Saint Catherine of Siena includes a brief altercation with the Devil regarding her fight due to Satan attempting to lure her with vanity and flattery. Speaking in the first person, Saint Catherine of Siena responds to the Devil with the following words:
...humiliation of yourself, and you answered the Devil with these words: 'Wretch that I am! John the Baptist never sinned and was sanctified in his mother's womb. And I have committed so many sins...
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich mentioned in her mystical visions that Saint John the Baptist was pure, innocent and spotless from the womb of Saint Elizabeth and has never uttered a single lie in his earthy life. According to Emmerich's alleged visions received from Jesus Christ, Saint John the Baptist was the following:
... He sees, he knows, he speaks only Jesus…. In the desert, blameless and pure as a babe in the mother's womb, he comes forth from his solitude innocent and spotless as a child at the mother's breast. 'He is pure as an angel,' I heard the Lord (Jesus Christ) say to the Apostles. 'Never has impurity entered into his mouth, still less has an untruth or any other sin issued from it...
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that modern revelation confirms the biblical account of John and also makes known additional events in his ministry. According to this belief, John was "ordained by the angel of God" when he was eight days old "to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews" and to prepare a people for the Lord. Mormons also believe that "he was baptized while yet in his childhood."
The LDS Church teaches that John the Baptist appeared on the banks of the Susquehanna River near Harmony Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania as a resurrected being to Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery on May 15, 1829, and ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood. According to LDS doctrine, John's ministry has operated in three dispensations: he was the last of the prophets under the law of Moses; he was the first of the New Testament prophets; and he was sent to confer the Aaronic Priesthood in our day, the dispensation of the fulness of times. Mormons believe John's ministry was foretold by two prophets whose teachings are included in the Book of Mormon: Lehi and his son Nephi).
The Unification Church teaches that God intended that John help Jesus during his public ministry in Judea. In particular, John should have done everything in his power to persuade the Jewish people that Jesus was the Messiah. He was to become Jesus' greatest disciple. John's failure to do so was the chief obstacle to the fulfillment of Jesus' mission.
Prophet, Seer, Messenger, Forerunner of Jesus
6 – 2 BC|
|Resting place||Umayyad Mosque, Damascus|
|Other names||New Testament: John the Baptist|
|Known for||Being a gift from God to his father Zachariah, Prophesying with the scripture, Attaining wisdom in youth|
|Parents||Zachariah and Elizabeth|
|Relatives||Cousin of Jesus, Nephew of Mary|
John is also honored as a prophet in Islam as Yaḥyā ibn Zakarīyā (Arabic: يحيى بن زكريا), translated literally as "John, son of Zechariah". He is believed by Muslims to have been a witness to the word of God, and a prophet who would herald the coming of Jesus. His father Zechariah was also an Islamic prophet. Islamic tradition maintains that John was one of the prophets who Muhammad met on the night of the Mi'raj, his ascension through the Seven Heavens. It is said that he met John and Jesus in the second heaven, where Muhammad greeted his two 'brothers' before ascending with archangel Gabriel to the third heaven. John's story was also told to the Abyssinian king during the Muslim refugees' Migration to Abyssinia. According to the Qur'an, John was one on whom God sent peace on the day that he was born and the day that he died.
An early 20th-century European source says that John's name in Arabic, Yahya, was supposedly present in Arabia before the Qur'an was revealed. This claim, from an early 1900s European Orientalist source, is challenged by Islamic writers who cite and discuss with academics and modern day linguists like Professor Robert Hoberman and Dr. Geoffery Khan of the University of Cambridge "This study has shown conclusively that the names Yahya and John (Yuhanan or Yuhanna) are two entirely different names derived from two different roots." and from an exegetical standpoint "The verse at 19:7 which reads lam naj`al lahu min qablu samiyya may be interpreted in two ways: 1. Samiyy, means shabihan or mithlan, i.e., someone like him. The verse is interpreted to mean that the birth of Yahya was unlike the birth of others, as he was born to an aged father and a barren mother. 2. The name Yahya is unique, and no one prior to the birth of Yahya was ever given such a name by God, a point conveniently overlooked by the missionaries."
The exegetes frequently connected the name with the meaning of "to quicken" or "to make alive" in reference to John's mother's barrenness, which was cured by God, as well as John's preaching, which, as Muslims believe, "made alive" the faith of Israel.
The Qur'an accords the significance of John's name to the fact that it was a new name for mankind, in that no one previously had been named "John". Other scholars hold that John's name, which they state connects with the meaning of "He shall live", referred to his legacy, in that his memory will remain in the mind of the faithful for the generations to come.
The usage of the name Yuḥanna is well attested to in the western Arabian peninsula. In the well-documented Najran Pact one of the fourteen chiefs was Yuḥannas. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that any Arab Christian would have used the name Yahya prior to the Quran's usage of it.
However, the Qur'an also mentions a root used in the Hebrew version of the name, 'Yohanan' יוֹחָנָן (Yahweh is gracious). Sura Maryam: 12-13 describes the virtues of Yahya: وَآتَيْنَاهُ الْحُكْمَ صَبِيًّا - وَحَنَانًا مِّن لَّدُنَّا وَزَكَاةً (And We gave him judgement, while yet a boy - And affection from Us, and purity.) Here 'Ḥanān' (حنان, Affection) is an Arabic word corresponding to the same root used in the Hebrew/Aramaic 'Yohanan'. It is also the only time this word is used in the Qur'an.
There are numerous quotations in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Founder of the Bahá'í Faith mentioning John the Baptist. He is regarded by Bahá'ís as a lesser Prophet. Bahá'u'lláh claimed that his Forerunner, the Báb, was the spiritual return of John the Baptist. In his letter to Pope Pius IX, Bahá'u'lláh wrote:
"O followers of the Son! We have once again sent John unto you, and He, verily, hath cried out in the wilderness of the Bayán: O peoples of the world! Cleanse your eyes! The Day whereon ye can behold the Promised One and attain unto Him hath drawn nigh! O followers of the Gospel! Prepare the way! The Day of the advent of the Glorious Lord is at hand! Make ready to enter the Kingdom. Thus hath it been ordained by God, He Who causeth the dawn to break."
Gnostic and anthroposophic views
In Gnosticism, John the Baptist was a "personification" of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Elijah did not know the True God (as opposed to the Abrahamic God), and thus had to be reincarnated in Gnostic theology. As predicted by the Old Testament prophet Malachi, Elijah must "come first" to herald the coming of Jesus Christ. Modern anthroposophy concurs with the idea that the Baptist was a reincarnation of Elijah, (cf. Mark 9:11-13), Matthew 11:13-14, Luke 7:27 although the Gospel of John explicitly denies this (John 1:21).
John the Baptist plays a large part in some Mandaean writings, especially those dating from the Islamic period. They view John as the only true Messiah. The Mandaean scriptures state: "If the carpenter [Jesus] has joined together the god, who then has joined together the carpenter?"
The beheading of St. John the Baptist is a standard theme in Christian art, in which John's head is often depicted on a platter, which represents the request of Herod's stepdaughter, Salome. He is also depicted as an ascetic wearing camel hair, with a staff and scroll inscribed Ecce Agnus Dei, or bearing a book or dish with a lamb on it. In Orthodox icons, he often has angel's wings, since Mark 1:2 describes him as a messenger.
The Baptism of Christ was one of the earliest scenes from the Life of Christ to be frequently depicted in Early Christian art, and John's tall thin, even gaunt, and bearded figure is already established by the 5th century. Only he and Jesus are consistently shown with long hair from Early Christian times, when the apostles generally have trim classical cuts; in fact John is more consistently depicted in this way than Jesus. In Byzantine art the composition of the Deesis came to be included in every Eastern Orthodox church, as remains the case to this day. Here John and the Theotokos (Mary) flank a Christ Pantocrator and intercede for humanity; in many ways this is the equivalent of Western Crucifixions on roods and elsewhere, where John the Evangelist takes the place of John the Baptist (except in the idiosyncratic Isenheim Altarpiece). John the Baptist is very often shown on altarpieces designed for churches dedicated to him, or where the donor patron was named for him or there was some other connection of patronage - John was the patron saint of Florence, among many other cities, which means he features among the supporting saints in many important works.
A number of narrative scenes from his life were often shown on the predella of altarpieces dedicated to John, and other settings, notably the large series in grisaille fresco in the Chiostro dello Scalzo (it), which was Andrea del Sarto's largest work, and the frescoed Life by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the Tornabuoni Chapel, both in Florence. There is another important fresco cycle by Filippo Lippi in Prato Cathedral. These include the typical scenes: the Annunciation to Zechariah, John's birth, his naming by his father, the Visitation, John's departure for the desert, his preaching in the desert, the Baptism of Christ, John before Herod, the dance of Salome, and his beheading.
His birth, which unlike the Nativity of Jesus allowed a relatively wealthy domestic interior to be shown, became increasingly popular as a subject in the late Middle Ages, with depictions by Jan van Eyck in the Turin-Milan Hours and Ghirlandaio in the Tornabuoni Chapel being among the best known. His execution, a church feast-day, was often shown, and by the 15th-century scenes such as the dance of Salome became popular, sometimes, as in an engraving by Israhel van Meckenem, the interest of the artist is clearly in showing the life of Herod's court, given contemporary dress, as much as the martyrdom of the saint. Salome bearing John's head on a platter equally became a subject for the Northern Renaissance taste for images of glamorous but dangerous women (Delilah, Judith and others), and was often painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder and engraved by the Little Masters. These images remained popular into the Baroque, with Carlo Dolci painting at least three versions. John preaching, in a landscape setting, was a popular subject in Dutch art from Pieter Brueghel the Elder and his successors.
As a child (of varying age), he is sometimes shown from the 15th century in family scenes from the life of Christ such as the Presentation of Christ, the Marriage of the Virgin and the Holy Kinship. Leonardo da Vinci's versions of the Virgin of the Rocks were influential in establishing a Renaissance fashion for variations on the Madonna and Child that included John, probably intended to depict the cousin's reunion in Egypt, when after Jesus' Flight to Egypt John was believed to have been carried to join him by an angel. Raphael in particular painted many compositions of the subject, such as the Alba Madonna, La belle jardinière, Aldobrandini Madonna, Madonna della seggiola, Madonna dell'Impannata, which were among his best known works. John was also often shown by himself as an older child or adolescent, usually already wearing his distinctive dress and carrying a long thin wooden cross - another theme influenced by Leonardo, whose equivocal composition, reintroducing the camel-skin dress, was developed by Raphael Titian and Guido Reni among many others. Often he is accompanied by a lamb, especially in the many Early Netherlandish paintings which needed this attribute as he wore normal clothes. Caravaggio painted an especially large number of works including John, from at least five largely nude youths attributed to him, to three late works on his death - the great Execution in Malta, and two sombre Salomes with his head, one in Madrid, and one in London.
Amiens cathedral, which holds one of the alleged heads of the Baptist, has a biographical sequence in polychrome relief, dating from the 16th century. This stresses the execution and the disposal of the saint's remains.
A remarkable Pre-Raphaelite portrayal is Christ in the House of His Parents by John Everett Millais. Here the Baptist is shown as a child, wearing a loin covering of animal skins, hurrying to bring a bowl of water to soothe the injured hand of Jesus. Artistic interest enjoyed a considerable revival at the end of the 19th century with Symbolist painters such as Gustave Moreau and Puvis de Chavannes (National Gallery, London). Oscar Wilde's play Salome was illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley, giving rise to some of his most memorable images.
The artist Saltillo has a track in the album 'Ganglion' titled 'A Hair on the Head of John the Baptist'.
In film and television
John the Baptist has appeared in a number of screen adaptations of the life of Jesus. Actors who have played John include Robert Ryan in King of Kings (1961), Mario Socrate in The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), Charlton Heston in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), David Haskell in Godspell (1973), Michael York in Jesus of Nazareth (1977), and Andre Gregory in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).
As a patron saint
Saint John the Baptist is the Luke 1:63).
He is also a patron saint of French Canada, and Newfoundland. The Canadian cities of St. John's, Newfoundland (1497) and Saint John, New Brunswick (1604) were both named in his honor. In the United Kingdom, Saint John is the patron of Penzance, Cornwall. His feast day of 24 June, celebrated in Quebec as the Fête Nationale du Québec, and in Newfoundland as Discovery Day.
Also on the night of 23 June on to the 24, Saint John is celebrated as the patron saint of Porto, the second largest city in Portugal. An article from June 2004 in The Guardian, remarked that "Porto's Festa de São João is one of Europe's liveliest street festivals, yet it is relatively unknown outside the country".
He is also patron of the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, Malta, Florence, and Genoa, Italy. John is patron saint of Xewkija-Gozo, Malta, which remember him with a great feast on the Sunday nearest to 24 June.
Calamba City, Laguna, Calumpit, Bulacan, Balayan and Lian in Batangas, and San Juan, Metro Manila are among several places in the Philippines that venerate John as the town or city patron. A common practise of many Filipino fiestas in his honour is bathing and the dousing of people in memory of John's iconic act. The custom is similar in form to Songkran and Holi, and serves as a playful respite from the intense tropical heat. While famed for the Black Nazarene it enshrines, Quiapo Church in Manila is actually dedicated to Saint John.
The Baptistines are the name given to a number of religious orders dedicated to the memory of John the Baptist.
Locations, churches, and other establishments in his name
- St. John the Baptist Primary School, Southampton,
- Armenian Apostolic Monastery of Gandzasar, Nagorno Karabakh
- Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, a 4th-century Armenian monastery in the Taron province of historic Armenia that contained the relics of Saint John the Baptist (which were moved there from Caeserea)
- Maronite Catholic Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, Beit Mery, Lebanon
- Romanian Skete Prodromos (the name is the Greek for "The Forerunner") on Mount Athos, holding relics believed to be of John the Baptist
- St John's College of The University of Oxford, Oxford, England
- San Juan del Río, Querétaro, Mexico was founded on June 24, 1531
- St. John's, Newfoundland was founded on June 24, 1497.
- Saint John, New Brunswick was named after the Saint John River which was named by Samuel de Champlain
- Fête nationale du Québec (also known as la St- Jean-Baptiste) is the provincial holiday of Quebec, celebrated on June 24 of every year
- Prince Edward Island, a Canadian province, was originally called Île de St-Jean or St. John's Island
- St. John's University located in Queens, New York; St. John's is the second largest Roman Catholic university in the United States
- Mission San Juan Bautista, one of the original 18th-century missions in northern California
- San Juan, Metro Manila, the Philippines (also known as San Juan del Monte), the city's Pinaglabanan Church is dedicated to this saint
- The main parish church of Calamba City, Laguna, the Philippines; established in 1859, national hero Dr. José Rizal was christened there in 1861
- 12th-century cathedral in Kamień Pomorski, Poland with a famous 17th-century organ
- St. John Ambulance and the Venerable Order of St. John
- Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (commonly referred to as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta)
- The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University and Saint John's Abbey in Collegeville, MN
- The city of Sveti Ivan Zelina and the village of Sveti Ivan Žabno in Croatia were named after John the Baptist; both have churches dedicated to him
- St. John the Baptist Catholic Parish in Beloit, Kansas includes St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, St. John the Baptist Catholic Grade School, and St. John's Catholic High School (Beloit, Kansas).
- Baptism of Jesus
- Biblical narratives and the Qur'an
- Chronology of Jesus
- Cultural and historical background of Jesus
- Legends and the Qur'an
- Matthew 3:1 "This verse introduces the character of John the Baptist."
- Messengers from John the Baptist
- Nabi Yahya Mosque
- Prophets of Islam
- Stories of The Prophets
Books on John the Baptist
- Brooks Hansen (2009) John the Baptizer: A Novel. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-06947-1
- Murphy, Catherine M. (2003) John the Baptist: Prophet of Purity for a New Age. Collegeville: Liturgical Press. ISBN 0-8146-5933-0
- Taylor, Joan E. (1997) The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-4236-4
- W. Barnes Tatum (1994) John the Baptist and Jesus: A Report of the Jesus Seminar., Sonoma, California: Polebridge Press, 1994, ISBN 0-944344-42-9
- Webb, Robert L. (1991) John the Baptizer and Prophet: a Socio-Historical Study. Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59752-986-0 (first published Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991)
- J.C.L Gibson, John the Baptist in Muslim writings, in MW, xlv (1955), 334-345
Passages in the Qur'an
- Appraisals for Yahya: 19:15
- Yahya's prophecy: 19:12
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Book of John the Baptist
- : St. John the Baptist
- John the Baptist
- Prophet John (Yahya)
- Mandaean Book of John translation project