“This is a failing of human nature, that people can be driven by the
most effective speaker, and that’s something we have to live with.
- Arthur B. Robinson,” - Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine.
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant minister and a major religious
figure in Christianity, Islam, the Bahá'í Faith and Mandaeism. He is called a Prophet by all of these traditions,
and a Saint in many Christian traditions. John used baptism as the central sacrament of his messianic
movement, and most scholars agree that John baptized Jesus.
Several New Testament accounts report that some of Jesus' early
followers had previously been followers of John. John the Baptist is
also mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus.
Some scholars maintain that John was influenced by the semi-acetic Essenes,
who expected and practiced rituals corresponding strongly with baptism, although
no direct evidence substantiates this.
According to the New Testament, John anticipated a
messianic figure greater than himself, and Jesus was the one whose coming John
foretold. Christians commonly refer to John as the one chosen to
introduce Jesus, since John announces Jesus' coming.
The Gospel of Mark introduces John as a fulfillment of a prophecy from the
Book of Isaiah, (in fact, a conflation of texts from Isaiah, Micah and
Exodus). The passage is about a messenger being sent ahead, and a voice crying out in the
wilderness. John is described as wearing clothes of camel's hair, living on
locusts and wild honey. John proclaims baptism of repentance for the
forgiveness of sin, and says another will come after him who will
not baptize with water, but with the Holy Spirit.
So, Jesus comes to John, and is baptized
by him in the river Jordan. The account describes how; as he emerges
from the water, the heavens open and the sign of the Holy Spirit descends on him
'like a dove'. A voice from heaven then says, "You are my Son, the
Beloved; with you I am well pleased." Mark 1:1-8)
Later in the Gospel there is an account of John's death. It is
introduced by an incident where the Tetrarch Herod Antipas,
hearing stories about Jesus, imagines that this is John the Baptist
raised from the dead. It then explains that John had condemned Herod
for marrying Herodia, the ex-wife of his brother (named here as Philip). Herodias demands
his execution, but Herod, who 'liked to listen' to John, is
reluctant to do so because he fears him, knowing he is a "righteous and holy man".
The account then describes ow
Herod's daughter Herodias (other translations refer to the girl as the daughter of Herodias)
dances before Herod, who is pleased and offers her anything she asks
for in return. When the girl asks her mother what she should
request, she is told to demand the head of John the Baptist.
Reluctantly, Herod orders the beheading of John, and his head is
delivered to her, at her request, on a plate. John's disciples take
the body away and bury it in a tomb.
There are a number of difficulties with this passage. The Gospel
wrongly identifies Antipas as 'King' and the ex-husband of Herodias
is named as Philip, but he is known to have been called Herod.
Although the wording clearly implies the girl was the daughter of
Herodias, many texts describe her as "Herod's daughter, Herodias".
Since these texts are early and significant and the reading is '
many scholars see this as the original version, corrected in later
versions and in Matthew and Luke. Josephus says that Herodias had a
daughter by the name of Salome.
Scholars have speculated about the
origins of the story. Since it shows signs of having been composed
in Aramaic, which Mark apparently did not speak, he is likely to
have gotten it from a Palestinian source. There is a variety of
opinions about how much actual historical material it contains,
especially given the alleged factual errors. Many scholars have seen
the story of John arrested, executed, and buried in a tomb as a
conscious foreshadowing of the fate of Jesus.
John the Baptist in The Gospel of Mark
John and his baptism of Jesus (Mark 1)
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my
messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice
of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’"
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a
baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the
country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and
were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their
sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather
belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he
preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the
strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized
by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water,
immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit
descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven,
"You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased."
Death of John (Mark 6)
King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some
said, "John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is
why these miraculous powers are at work in him." But others
said, "He is Elijah." And others said, "He is a prophet, like
one of the prophets of old." But when Herod heard of it, he
said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised." For it was Herod
who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the
sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had
married her. For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not
lawful for you to have your brother’s wife." And Herodias had a
grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could
not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and
holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was
greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a
banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading
men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced,
she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl,
"Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you." And
he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to
half of my kingdom." And she went out and said to her mother,
"For what should I ask?" And she said, "The head of John the
Baptist." And she came in immediately with haste to the king and
asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of John
the Baptist on a platter." And the king was exceedingly sorry,
but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break
his word to her. And immediately the king sent an executioner
with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in
the prison and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the
girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples
heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
The Gospel of Matthew account begins
with the same modified quotation from Isaiah, moving the Micah and
Exodus material to later in the text, where it is quoted by Jesus.
The description of John is taken directly from Mark ("clothing of
camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was
locusts and wild honey"), along with the proclamation that one was
coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit "and fire".(Matthew
Unlike Mark, Matthew describes John
as critical of Pharisees and Sadducees and as preaching "the kingdom
of heaven is at hand" and a "coming judgment".
Matthew shortens the account of the
beheading of John, and adds two elements: that Herod Antipas wants
John dead, and that the death is reported to Jesus by his disciples.
Matthew's approach is to shift the focus away from Herod and onto
John as a prototype of Jesus. Where Mark has Herod killing John
reluctantly and at Herodias' insistence, Matthew describes him as
wanting John dead.
John the Baptist in the Gospel of Matthew
John and his baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3)
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of
Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this
is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the
Lord; make his paths straight.’"
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around
his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then
Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were
going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river
Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his
baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you
to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with
repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have
Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these
stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is
laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does
not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
"I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming
after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to
carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His
winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing
floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will
burn with unquenchable fire."
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by
him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be
baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him,
"Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all
righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized,
immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens
were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like
a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from
heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well
John questions Jesus (Matthew 11)
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent
word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is
to come, or shall we look for another?" And Jesus answered them,
"Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their
sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear,
and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached
to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning
John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed
shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man
dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing
are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A
prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of
whom it is written,
"‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare
your way before you.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one
greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the
kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the
Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence,
and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the
Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it,
he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
"But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children
sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
"‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a
dirge, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a
demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say,
‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax
collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds."
Death of John (Matthew 14)
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and
he said to his servants, "This is John the Baptist. He has been
raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at
work in him." For Herod had seized John and bound him and put
him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s
wife, because John had been saying to him, "It is not lawful for
you to have her." And though he wanted to put him to death, he
feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But
when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced
before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with
an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her
mother, she said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist here on
a platter." And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and
his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John
beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter
and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his
disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went
and told Jesus.
In Luke and Acts
Gospel of Luke adds an account of John's infancy, introducing him as the miraculous son of
Zechariah, an old man, and his wife
who was past the
and therefore unable to have children. According to this account,
the birth of John was foretold by the angel
to Zechariah, while he was performing his functions as a priest in
the temple of Jerusalem. Since he is described as a priest of the
and Elizabeth as one of the
daughters of Aaron,
this would make John a descendant of
Aaron on both his father's and mother's side. On the basis of this
account, the Catholic as well as the Anglican and Lutheran
liturgical calendars placed the feast of the Nativity of John the
Baptist on June 24, six months before Christmas.
There is no mention of a family
relationship between John and Jesus in the other Gospels, and
Raymond E. Brown has described it as "of dubious historicity".
Géza Vermes has called it "artificial and undoubtedly Luke's creation". The many
similarities between the Gospel of Luke story of the birth of John
and the Old Testament account of the birth of
Samuel suggest that Luke's account of the annunciation and birth of Jesus
are modeled on that of Samuel.
Unique to the Gospel of Luke, John
the Baptist explicitly teaches charity, baptizes tax-collectors, and
The text briefly mentions that John
is imprisoned and later beheaded by Herod, but the Gospel of Luke
lacks the story of a step-daughter dancing for Herod and requesting
Book of Acts portrays some disciples of John becoming followers of Jesus
Acts 18:24-19:6 a development not reported by the Gospels
except for the early case of
Andrew, Simon Peter's brother
John the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke and Acts
Nativity of John (Luke 1)
reign of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named
Zechariah, who belonged to the division called after Abijah. His
wife, whose name was Elizabeth, was also a descendant of Aaron.
They were both righteous people, who lived blameless lives,
guiding their steps by all the commandments and ordinances of
the Lord. But they had no child, Elizabeth being barren; and
both of them were advanced in years.
day, when Zechariah was officiating as priest before God, during
the turn of his division, it fell to him by lot, in accordance
with the practice among the priests, to go into the Temple of
the Lord and burn incense; and, as it was the Hour of Incense,
the people were all praying outside. And an angel of the Lord
appeared to him, standing on the right of the Altar of Incense.
Zechariah was startled at the sight and was awe-struck. But the
angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has
been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, whom
you will call by the name John. He will be to you a joy and a
delight; and many will rejoice over his birth. For he will be
great in the sight of the Lord; he will not drink any wine or
strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from
the very hour of his birth, and will reconcile many of the
Israelites to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the
spirit and with the power of Elijah, ‘to reconcile fathers to
their children’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the
righteous, and so make ready for the Lord a people prepared for
can I be sure of this?" Zechariah asked the angel. "For I am an
old man and my wife is advanced in years."
Gabriel," the angel answered, "who stand in the presence of God,
and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good
news. And now you will be silent and unable to speak until the
day when this takes place, because you did not believe what I
said, though my words will be fulfilled in due course."
Meanwhile, the people were watching for Zechariah, wondering at
his remaining so long in the Temple. When he came out, he was
unable to speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a
vision there. But Zechariah kept making signs to them, and
remained dumb. And, as soon as his term of service was finished,
he returned home. After this his wife, Elizabeth, became
pregnant and lived in seclusion for five months. "The Lord has
done this for me," she said, "he has shown me kindness and taken
away the public disgrace of childlessness under which I have
months later the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in
Galilee called Nazareth, to a maiden there who was engaged to a
man named Joseph, a descendant of David. Her name was Mary.
Gabriel came into her presence and greeted her, saying: "You
have been shown great favor – the Lord is with you."
was much disturbed at his words, and was wondering to herself
what such a greeting could mean, when the angel spoke again: "Do
not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now,
you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will give him
the name Jesus. The child will be great and will be called ‘Son
of the Most High,’ and the Lord God will give him the throne of
his ancestor David, and he will reign over the descendants of
Jacob for ever; And to his kingdom there will be no end."
can this be?" Mary asked the angel. "For I have no husband."
Holy Spirit will descend on you," answered the angel, "and the
Power of the Most High will overshadow you; and therefore the
child will be called ‘holy,’ and ‘Son of God.’ And Elizabeth,
your cousin, is herself also expecting a son in her old age; and
it is now the sixth month with her, though she is called barren;
for no promise from God will fail to be fulfilled."
the servant of the Lord," exclaimed Mary; "let it be with me as
you have said." Then the angel left her.
after this Mary set out, and made her way quickly into the
hill-country, to a town in Judah; and there she went into
Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard
Mary’s greeting, the child moved within her, and Elizabeth
herself was filled with the Holy Spirit, and cried aloud:
"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is your unborn child!
But how have I this honor, that the mother of my Lord should
come to me? For, as soon as your greeting reached my ears, the
child moved within me with delight! Happy indeed is she who
believed that the promise which she received from the Lord would
soul exalts the Lord, my spirit delights in God my Savior; for
he has remembered his humble servant girl; And from this hour
all ages will count me happy!
things has the Almighty done for me; And holy is his name. From
age to age his mercy rests On those who honor him.
are the deeds of his arm; He scatters the proud with their own
devices, he casts down princes from their thrones, and the
humble he uplifts, the hungry he loads with gifts, and the rich
he sends empty away.
stretched out his hand to his servant Israel, Ever mindful of
his mercy (As he promised to our forefathers) For Abraham and
his race for ever."
stayed with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned to
her home. When Elizabeth’s time came, she gave birth to a son;
and her neighbors and relations, hearing of the great goodness
of the Lord to her, came to share her joy. A week later they met
to circumcise the child, and were about to call him ‘Zechariah’
after his father, when his mother spoke up: "No, he is to be
have no relation of that name!" they exclaimed; and they made
signs to the child’s father, to find out what he wished the
child to be called. Asking for a writing-tablet, he wrote the
words – ‘His name is John.’ Everyone was surprised; and
immediately Zechariah recovered his voice and the use of his
tongue, and began to bless God. All their neighbors were
awe-struck at this; and throughout the hill-country of Judea the
whole story was much talked about; and all who heard it kept it
in mind, asking one another – "What can this child be destined
to become?" For the Power of the Lord was with him.
his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and,
speaking under inspiration, said:
"Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, Who has visited his
people and wrought their deliverance, and has raised up for us
the Strength of our salvation In the house of his servant David
promised by the lips of his holy prophets of old – salvation
from our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us, showing
mercy to our forefathers, And mindful of his sacred covenant.
was the oath which he swore to our forefather Abraham – That we
should be rescued from the hands of our enemies, and should
serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness, In his
presence all our days.
you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, For you
will go before the Lord to make ready his way, to give his
people the knowledge of salvation In the forgiveness of their
through the tender mercy of our God, Whereby the Dawn will break
on us from heaven, to give light to those who live in darkness
and the shadow of death, And guide our feet into the way of
child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the
Wilds until the time came for his appearance before Israel.
John and his baptism of Jesus, Death of John (Luke 3)
fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, when
Pontius Pilate was Governor of Judea, Herod Ruler of Galilee,
his brother Philip Ruler of the territory comprising Ituraea and
Trachonitis, and Lysanias Ruler of Abilene, and when Annas and
Caiaphas were high priests, a command from God came to John, the
son of Zechariah, while he was in the wilderness. And John went
through the whole district of the Jordan, proclaiming baptism on
repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. This was in fulfillment
of what is said in the writings of the prophet Isaiah –
voice of one crying aloud in the wilderness: "Make ready the way
of the Lord, Make his paths straight. Every chasm will be
filled, Every mountain and hill will be leveled, The winding
ways will be straightened, The rough roads made smooth, and
everyone will see the salvation of God."’
John said to the crowds that went to be baptized by him: "You
children of snakes! Who has prompted you to seek refuge from the
coming judgment? Let your lives, then, prove your repentance;
and do not begin to say among yourselves ‘Abraham is our
ancestor,’ for I tell you that out of these stones God is able
to raise descendants for Abraham! Already, indeed, the axe is
lying at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that fails
to bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
are we to do then?" the people asked. "Let anyone who has two
coats," answered John, "share with the person who has none; and
anyone who has food do the same."
tax-gatherers came to be baptized, and said to John: "Teacher,
what are we to do?"
not collect more than you have authority to demand," John
answered. And when some soldiers on active service asked "And we
– what are we to do?" he said: "Never use violence, or exact
anything by false accusation; and be content with your pay."
while the people were in suspense, and were all debating with
themselves whether John could be the Christ, John, addressing
them all, said: "I, indeed, baptize you with water; but there is
coming one more powerful than I, and I am not fit even to
unfasten his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit
and with fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand so that he may
clear his threshing-floor, and store the grain in his barn, but
the chaff he will burn with a fire that cannot be put out."
with many different appeals John told his good news to the
people. But Prince Herod, being rebuked by John respecting
Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother, and for all the evil
things that he had done, crowned them all by shutting John up in
prison. Now after the baptism of all the people, and when Jesus
had been baptized and was still praying, the heavens opened, and
the Holy Spirit came down on him in the form of a dove, and from
the heavens came a voice – "You are my dearly loved son; you
bring me great joy."
John's disciples and fast (Luke 5:33)
"John’s disciples," they said to Jesus, "Often fast and say
prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, while yours
are eating and drinking!"
John questions Jesus (Luke 7)
these events were reported to John by his disciples. So he
summoned two of them, and sent them to the Master to ask – "Are
you ‘the coming one,’ or are we to look for some one else?"
these men found Jesus, they said: "John the Baptist has sent us
to you to ask – ‘Are you ‘the coming one,’ or are we to look for
somebody else?’" At that very time Jesus had cured many people
of diseases, afflictions, and wicked spirits, and had given many
blind people their sight. So his answer to the question was: "Go
and report to John what you have witnessed and heard – the blind
recover their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean,
and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the good news is
told to the poor. And blessed is the person who finds no
hindrance in me."
John’s messengers had left, Jesus, speaking to the crowds, began
to say with reference to John: "What did you go out into the
wilderness to look at? A reed waving in the wind? If not, what
did you go out to see? A man dressed in rich clothing? Why,
those who are accustomed to fine clothes and luxury live in
royal palaces. What then did you go to see? A prophet? Yes, I
tell you, and far more than a prophet. This is the man of whom
scripture says –
sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way
is, I tell you, no one born of a woman who is greater than John;
and yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
the people, when they heard this, and even the tax-gatherers,
having accepted John’s baptism, acknowledged the justice of God.
But the Pharisees and the students of the law, having rejected
John’s baptism, frustrated God’s purpose in regard to them.)
In the Gospel of John
The fourth gospel describes the
Baptist as "a man sent from God [...] to bear witness to the light
so that through him everyone might believe." Upon literary analysis,
it is clear that John is the "testifier and confessor par
excellence", particularly when compared to figures like Nicodemus.
John directly denies being the
Christ or Elijah or 'the prophet', instead describing himself as the
"voice of one crying in the wilderness".
Jesus' baptism is implied but not
depicted. Unlike the other gospels, it is John himself who testifies
to seeing "the Spirit come down from heaven like a dove and rest on
him". John explicitly announces that Jesus is the one "who baptizes
with the Holy Spirit" and John even professes a "belief that he is
the Son of God" and "the Lamb of God".
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. In
this debate John argued that Jesus "must become greater," while he
(John) "must become less".
The Gospel of John then points out
that Jesus' disciples were baptizing more people than John. Later,
the Gospel relates that Jesus regarded John as "a burning and
shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his
Some Additional Perspective
The prophecy of Isaiah
Although Mark's Gospel implies that
the arrival of John the Baptist is the fulfillment of a prophecy
from the Book of Isaiah, the words quoted ("I will send my messenger
ahead of you, who will prepare your way – a voice of one calling in
the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths
for him.’") are actually a composite of texts from
Book of Malachi
Book of Exodus.
Matthew and Luke drop the first part of the reference.
Baptism of Jesus
The gospels differ on the details of the Baptism. In Mark and Luke,
Jesus himself sees the heavens open and hears a voice address him personally,
saying, "You are my dearly loved son; you bring me great joy".
They do not clarify whether others saw and heard these things.
In Matthew, the voice from heaven
does not address Jesus personally, saying instead "This is my
beloved son, in whom I am well pleased."
In the Gospel of John, John the
Baptist himself sees the spirit descend as a dove, testifying about
the experience as evidence of Jesus' status.
John's knowledge of Jesus
John's knowledge of Jesus varies
across gospels. In the Gospel of Mark, John preaches of a coming
leader, but shows no signs of recognizing that Jesus is this leader.
In Matthew, however, John immediately recognizes Jesus and John
questions his own worthiness to baptize Jesus. In both Matthew and
Luke, John later dispatches disciples to question Jesus about his
status, asking "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for
another?" In Luke, John is a familial relative of Jesus whose birth
was foretold by Gabriel. In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist
himself sees the spirit descend like a dove and he explicitly
preaches that Jesus is the Son of God.
John and Elijah
The Gospels vary in their depiction of John's relationship to Elijah.
Matthew and Mark describe John's attire in a way reminiscent of the
description of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8,
who also wore a garment of hair and a leather belt. In Matthew,
Jesus explicitly teaches that John is "Elijah who was to come"
(Matt. 11:14 – see also Matt. 17:11–13); many Christian theologians
have taken this to mean that John was Elijah's successor. In the
Gospel of John, John the Baptist explicitly denies being Elijah.
In the annunciation narrative in Luke, an angel appears to
Zechariah, John's father, and tells him that John "will turn many of
the sons of Israel to the Lord their God," and that he will go forth
"in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke