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John the Baptist


Or John the Baptizer, an important figure in each of the four NT Gospels. He is identified with the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and understood as the forerunner to Jesus the Messiah. He is portrayed as a prophet who came out of the desert to proclaim the advent of the kingdom of God and issue a call to repentance (Matt 3:1-12; Mark 1:4-8; Luke 3:1-20). According to Luke, he was of priestly descent, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-80, Luke 3:2), and John and Jesus were related (Luke 1:36). Matthew and Mark describe John’s appearance and diet (Matt 3:4; Mark 1:6). He baptized those who repented of their sins and announced the coming of one after him who would be greater than he and who would baptize with the Spirit. Thus, John is cast into a role like Elijah’s (Matt 11:7-15; Matt 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; Mal 4:5-6). He is arrested, imprisoned, and eventually beheaded by Herod Antipas (Mark 1:14; Mark 6:17-29). The Gospels also present John as the person who baptized Jesus, and yet as one who conveys his own recognition that Jesus’s ministry has priority over his own (Matt 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16-17; John 1:26-27). Further attestation to the effectiveness of the ministry of John the Baptist is found in Acts, where on two occasions Christians encounter disciples of John who, after being further instructed, are received into the church (Priscilla and Aquila meet Apollos in (Acts 18:24-28, and Paul meets twelve such disciples, perhaps associated with Apollos, in Acts 19:1-7).