John the Baptist

John the Baptist
(c. 4 bc–ad 28)
   Missionary and Saint.
   John was the son of the priest Zachariah and Elizabeth, a relative of the Virgin mary. In the Gospel of luke, his birth was seen as a miracle since his mother was beyond the age for bearing children. John was portrayed as an ascetic preacher, drawing crowds into the wilderness and preparing the people for the coming Kingdom of God. He dressed in the same garb as the Old Testament prophet Elijah and his mission was seen as the fulfilment of Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah would return before the ‘great and terrible day of the Lord’. He encouraged his listeners to be baptised as a sign of repentance. Jesus was amongst those who were cleansed in the River Jordan under John’s guidance. John indicated that he was not himself the Messiah, but that one would come after him who would be greater than he. He was eventually arrested for preaching against King Herod’s marriage and, according to the Gospel story, Herod was tricked into having him executed. In the Christian tradition John is seen as the last of the prophets. Various scholarly conjectures have been offered as to his relationship with the monastic community of Qumran, but no firm conclusions have been reached.
   E. Bammel, ‘The Baptist in the Early Christian tradition’, New Testament Studies, xviii (1971– 2);
   C.H.H. Scobie, John the Baptist (1964);
   W. Wink, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition (1968).

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