Who was John the Baptist? (11 things to know and share)

by Jimmy Akin

in Bible, Bible History, Liturgical Year

What do we know about the mysterious John the Baptist? Here are 11 things to and share . . .

What do we know about the mysterious John the Baptist? Here are 11 things to and share . . .

John the Baptist is a mysterious figure in the New Testament.

He was famous in his own day, even before he became the herald of Christ.

We even know about him from outside the New Testament.

His memorial is August 29th, so it’s an excellent time to catch up on him.

Here are 11 things to know and share . . .


1) How was John the Baptist related to Jesus?

John was related to Jesus through their mothers. In Luke 1:36, Elizabeth is described as Mary’s “kinswoman,” meaning that they were related in some way through marriage or blood.

Most likely, it was a blood relationship, but neither a particularly close or distant one.

Elizabeth, being elderly, may have been an aunt, great-aunt, or one of the many types of “cousin.” The precise relationship cannot be determined.

This means that Jesus and John were cousins in one or another senses of the term.


2) When did John the Baptist’s ministry begin?

Luke gives us an extraordinarily precise date for the beginning of John’s ministry. He writes:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar . . . the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins [Luke 3:1-3].

“The fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar” is most naturally understood as a reference to A.D. 29.

This is important also because Luke suggests that Jesus’ ministry began shortly after John’s did, which places the likely date of Jesus’ baptism in A.D. 29 or early A.D. 30.


3) Why did John come baptizing?

Scripture presents us with several reasons.

He served as the forerunner or herald of the Messiah and was to prepare for him by fulfilling an Elijah-like role by calling the nation to repentance.

In keeping with that, he baptized people as a sign of their repentance.

He also came to identify and announce the Messiah. According to John the Baptist: “I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel” (John 1:31).

This identification was made when he baptized Jesus: “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (1:32-34).


4) How did John’s arrest affect Jesus?


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{ 1 comment }

Bill912 August 29, 2013 at 4:03 am

The first time our Lord cleansed the temple, the Pharisees derided him, pointing out that it had taken 46 years to build the temple. Herod the Great began reconstruction of the temple in 19 BC. Adding 46 years to that–remembering that there is no “Year Zero”–means that the first Passover of our Lord’s public ministry was in AD 28. Therefore, St. John had to have begun his ministry in AD 27.

The “fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar”, according to the Syrian reckoning, which was used in Palestine, was AD 27.

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