Sunday, January 6, 2008

John the Baptist

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Saint John the Baptist (also called John the Baptizer) was a 1st century Jewish preacher and ascetic regarded as a prophet by four religions: Christianity, Islam, Mandaeanism and the Bahá'í Faith. The title of prophet is asserted in the Synoptic Gospels, the Qur'an and the Bahá'í writings. He is commonly referred to as John the Forerunner or Precursor by Christians who consider him the forerunner of Jesus Christ

Birth and infancy
Main article: Zechariah (priest)
The Gospel of Luke includes an account of John's infancy, introducing him as the son of St. Zachary/Zachariah and St. Elizabeth, who previously "had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years" Luke 1:7 His birth, name, and office were foretold by the angel Gabriel to Zachariah, while Zachariah 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, Elizabeth, was of the daughters of Aaron (Luke 1:5); consequently John automatically held the priesthood of Aaron.
Luke states that John was born about six months before Jesus, and that Zachariah's disbelief 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.
According to Luke, Jesus Christ and John the Baptist were related, their mothers being cousins Luke 1:36; there is no mention of this in the other Gospels, and the scholar Raymond E. Brown has described the relationship as 'of dubious historicity ; Geza Vermes has called it 'artificial and undoubtedly Luke's creation.

All four canonical gospels relate John's ministry, his preaching and baptism in the River Jordan.
Most notably, according to the Bible, he is the one who recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and on Jesus' request, baptised him. The baptism marked the beginning of Jesus' ministry.
The Gospels of Mark, Matthew and (less clearly) Luke relate that Jesus came from Galilee to John and was baptized by him, whereupon the Spirit descended upon him and a voice from Heaven told him he was God's Son.
The problem that Jesus, considered without sin, received John's baptism, which was for the forgiveness of sins, is addressed in the Gospel of Matthew's account, which has John refusing to baptize Jesus, saying "I need to be baptized by you." until Jesus convinces him to baptize him nonetheless (Matthew 3:13-15).
The Gospel of John does not describe John baptizing Jesus but has John introducing Jesus to his disciples as the "Lamb of God" (John 1:29-34).
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 with John explaining that Jesus "must become greater" while he, John, must become less (John 3:22-36). Gospel of John then points out that Jesus' disciples were baptizing more people than John (John 4:2).
Later, the Gospel relates Jesus regarding John as a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. (John 5:35).
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 Synoptic Gospels
On various occasions the Gospels relate John denying any claim to be the Messiah and clearly acknowledging his inferiority to Jesus. However, scholars such as Harold W. Attridge contend that John's status as a "self-conscious and deliberate forerunner of Jesus" is likely to be an invention by early Christians, arguing that "for the early church it would have been something of an embarrassment to say that Jesus, who was in their minds superior to John the Baptist, had been baptized by him".

Imprisonment and beheading
Main article: Beheading of John the Baptist
According to the canonical Gospels, John the Baptist's public ministry was brought to a close when he was imprisoned on orders of Herod Antipas, probably about seven months after he had baptized Jesus.[citation needed] The synoptic Gospels state that Herod reacted to John's condemnation of Herod's marriage to Herodias, the wife of Herod's brother Philip (Luke 3:19; Matthew 14:3-5}. Josephus locates John's imprisonment in the fortress of Machaerus on the southern extremity of Peraea, nine miles (14 km) east of the Dead Sea (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities XVIII:5:1–2).
Matthew relates that the imprisoned John sent messengers to Jesus to ask him whether he was the Messiah. Jesus indirectly answered in the affirmative and described John in terms of a return of the prophet Elijah (Matthew 11:2-15).
Regarding John's death, Josephus states that Herod had John killed to preempt a possible uprising. Matthew links John's death as well with Herodias, as he related that her daughter Salome so much delighted Antipas with a dance that he vowed to grant her any wish to which, after being prompted by her mother (Herodias), she demanded the head of John the Baptist. (Matthew 14:6-8)
The Gospels date John's death before the third and last Passover of Jesus' ministry (between 30 AD or 33 AD). Josephus places John's death no later than 36 AD. Some scholars[attribution needed] believe that Herod Antipas did not marry his brother's wife until his brother Philip died in 34 AD, placing these events after the their date in the Gospel count.
Neither Josephus nor the Gospels state where John was buried, though the Gospels state that John's disciples took his body and placed it in a tomb and then told Jesus all that had occurred (Matthew 14:3-12).
In the time of Julian the Apostate, however, his tomb was shown at Samaria, where the inhabitants opened it and burned part of his bones. The rest of the alleged remains were saved by some Christians, who carried them to an abbot of Jerusalem named Philip.

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