John the Baptist

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John the Baptist

John the Baptist was the son of Elizabeth and the priest Zechariah. As told in the Gospel of Luke, he was born to his parents, supernaturally, in their old age. He was related to Jesus through his mother, Elizabeth who was a relative of Mary. He began his ministry of calling for repentance and baptism in the 15th year of the reign of Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar (which would place it around 28-29 AD). He baptized Jesus.


Unlike the other Gospels, which introduce John the Baptist into the narrative as an adult, the Gospel of Luke provides an account of his infancy. According to Luke, John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ, and son of Zacharias and Elizabeth; his birth, name, and office, were foretold by the angel Gabriel to Zacharias, while Zacharias was performing his functions as a priest in the temple of Jerusalem. According to Luke, Zacharias was a priest of the course of Abijah, and his wife, Elisabeth, was of the Daughters of Aaron (Luke 1:5); consequently John automatically held the priesthood of Aaron, which, to the Jews' eyes, gave him authority to baptize in the name of God.

Luke states that John was born about six months before Jesus, and that Zacharias' unbelief over the birth of his son led to him losing his power of speech, which was only restored on the occasion of John's circumcision (Luke 1:64). On the basis of Luke's account, the Catholic calendar placed the feast of John the Baptist on June 24, six months before Christmas.

Baptism of Jesus

John's imprisonment and beheading

John the Baptist as Elijah the prophet

It was common belief that Elijah the prophet would return in the days of the promised Messiah. When Jesus was asked this question, He replied that Elijah had returned as John the Baptist, but the world did not recognize him. (Matthew 17:10-13)

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