John the Baptist

John the Baptist[note 1] (c.1st century BCc.AD 30) was a Jewish itinerant preacher[16] in the early 1st century AD. Other titles and names for John include John the Forerunner in Eastern Christianity, John the Immerser in some Baptist Christian traditions,[17] and Prophet Yaḥyā in Islam. He is sometimes alternatively referred to as John the Baptizer.[18][19][20]


John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness by Anton Raphael Mengs
Prophet
Bornc.1st century BC[1]
Herodian Tetrarchy, Roman Empire
Diedc.AD 28–32[2][3][4]
Machaerus, Herodian Tetrarchy, Roman Empire
Venerated inChristianity (all denominations which venerate saints), Islam, Druze Faith,[5] Baháʼí Faith, Mandaeism
CanonizedPre-Congregation
Major shrine
Feast
AttributesRed Martyr, camel-skin robe, cross, lamb, scroll with words "Ecce Agnus Dei", platter with own head, pouring water from hands or scallop shell
PatronageSee Commemoration

John is mentioned by the Roman Jewish historian Josephus[21] and revered as a major religious figure[22] in Christianity, Islam, the Baháʼí Faith,[23] the Druze Faith, and Mandaeism. He is considered to be a prophet of God by all of these faiths, and is honoured as a saint in many Christian denominations. According to the New Testament, John anticipated a messianic figure greater than himself,[24] and the Gospels portray John as the precursor or forerunner of Jesus,[25] since John announces Jesus' coming and prepares the people for Jesus' ministry. Jesus himself identifies John as "Elijah who is to come",[26] which is a direct reference to the Book of Malachi (Malachi 4:5),[27] that has been confirmed by the angel who announced John's birth to his father, Zechariah.[28] According to the Gospel of Luke, John and Jesus were relatives.[29][30]

Some scholars maintain that John belonged to the Essenes, a semi-ascetic Jewish sect who expected a messiah and practiced ritual baptism.[31][32] John used baptism as the central symbol or sacrament[33] of his pre-messianic movement. Most scholars agree that John baptized Jesus,[34][35] and several New Testament accounts report that some of Jesus' early followers had previously been followers of John.[36]

According to the New Testament, John was sentenced to death and subsequently beheaded by Herod Antipas sometime around AD 30 after John rebuked him for divorcing his wife Phasaelis and then unlawfully wedding Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. Josephus also mentions John in the Antiquities of the Jews and states that he was executed by order of Herod Antipas in the fortress at Machaerus.[37]

The Preaching of St. John the Baptist by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1566

Followers of John existed well into the 2nd century AD, and some proclaimed him to be the messiah.[38] In modern times, the chief followers of John the Baptist are the Mandaeans, an ethnoreligious group who believe that he is their greatest and final prophet.[39][40]