Category:John the Baptist (subject)

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John the Baptist (Home Page)
John the Baptist (Home Page)


John the Baptist is mentioned both in Christian sources and in the writings of Flavius Josephus.

John was a Jewish religious leader who preached in the wilderness of Perea across the Jordan River. The location itself seems to suggest some eschatological reference to the experience of the Jews in the desert before the entrance into the Promised Land. [When the Gospel Matthew says that John preached "in the wilderness of Judea", it reflects anachronistically the situation after the year 44 CE, when Perea was annexed to Judea and became "the region of Judea beyond the Jordan" (Mt 19:1).]

According to Christian sources, John's teaching was centered on the announcement of the imminent end of time and the coming of the Messiah as the eschatological Judge. John urged people to be baptized "with water" for forgiveness of sin, in order to avoid the destruction of the imminent baptist "with fire" of the Last Judgment (the reference to the "Holy Spirit" should be taken as a later attempt to connect John's announcement to the Christian baptism).

Christian sources insist that John did not make any messianic claim. Josephus, who omits any reference to the eschatological teaching of John, also stresses that John did not claim any authority to forgive sins, but intended his baptist as an act of atonement and an invocation to God.

Christians valued John as the precursor who prepared the path for the ministry of Jesus (and the Christian baptism), and later sources (especially the Gospel of John) would present John as the conscious witness of the messiahship of Jesus. In earlier sources (Gospel of Mark, and Q) however the relationship between John and Jesus is not as direct and obvious. Josephus also is not aware of any connection between the two.

That Jesus was baptized by John, seems to be beyond doubt, as the Christian tradition had no interest in creating such an embarrassing event. Being baptized meant an acknowledgment of the authority of John and a recognition, from Jesus' part, that he was a sinner and in need of God's forgiveness. The Christian tradition solved the problem by turning the Baptism into the setting of an heavenly revelation, followed by a time of spiritual initiation in the desert (see Temptation of Jesus)

We see a clear progression in Christian tradition. According to the earliest Gospel (Mark [followed by Luke]), Jesus was among the many who were baptized by John and there was no special interaction between the two (even the voice from heaven addressed, and was heard by, Jesus only: "You are..."). On the contrary, in Matthew the two characters interact and the voice from heaven makes a sort of public announcement: "This is...". In John, the Baptist is "the witness" who explicitly invites his disciples to join Jesus the Messiah: "Here is the Lamb of God... This was he of whom I said...". Historically, however, the disciples of John and the disciples of Jesus remained two distinct groups, divided on the crucial issue of the coming of the Messiah, which the disciples of John (along with the Pharisees) continued to see as a future event (see Question about Fasting, and Messengers from John the Baptist).

John the Baptist was certainly imprisoned and executed by Herod Antipas at Machareus. The reason must have been some criticism expressed by John toward Herod's marriage with Herodias. This situation was at the origin of the popular legend of the Banquet of Herod, which is reported in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.

Equally unreliable from the historical point of view is Luke's account of the infancy of John, which repeats traditional Jewish patterns about the miraculous birth of prophets and religious leaders. According to this narrative, John was the son of the priest Zacharias and Elizabeth, thus a priest himself. The later Christian tradition would heavily elaborate on these legends and fill the "hidden years" of John's life with narratives about his meetings with the infant Jesus and his education in the wilderness.

John the Baptist, in Islamic traditions

In Arabic, John's name is Yahya. He is venerated as one of the 25 Prophets mentioned in the Quran, one in the chain of prophets who led to Jesus and Muhammad. His father, Zacharias (Zecheriah), was also one of these Prophets.

"And We bestowed upon Abraham (offspring) Isaac and Jacob and each of them did We guide to the right way as We had earlier guided Noah to the right way; and (of his descendants We guided) David and Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron. Thus do We reward those who do good. (And of his descendants We guided) Zecheriah, John, Jesus and Elias: each one of them was of the righteous." (Quran 6:84-85).

Islam shares Christian traditions about the miraculous birth of John the Baptist, as the offspring of a barren mother and an elderly father (Quran 19:7-9). God made this child a blessing for his parents and beautiful in character, chaste and righteous (Quran 3:38-39).

Relics of John the Baptist

According to Christian and Islamic traditions, Relics of John the Baptist are preserved in Samaria, Damascus, Rome and Aachen, as well as in numerous other locations.

John the Baptist is mentioned in early Christian sources and by Josephus.

The study of the "historical" John the Baptist is an important element for the study of Second Temple Judaism and Christian Origins. Scholars have explored in particular the relationship of John with the Essenes, his connections with Jesus of Nazareth, and the role he played in the emergence of later movements, like the Mandeans.

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John the Baptist (fiction)
John the Baptist (fiction)

John the Baptist is a quite frequent character in fiction, but like in the gospel narratives, is never the protagonist. As the precursor of the Messiah, he is present in virtually all major fictional works on the Life of Jesus, with only a few conspicuous exceptions. And he is the innocent victim of the intrigues of Herod Antipas, Herodias and Salome, which led to his execution.





Pages in category "John the Baptist (subject)"

The following 61 pages are in this category, out of 61 total.