John the Baptist : biography
John the Baptist (Hebrew: יוחנן המטביל, Yoḥanan ha-mmaṭbil, Yuhanna Al-Ma’madan, Aramaic: ܝܘܚܢܢ Ioḥanan, Greek: Ὁ Ἅγιος/Τίμιος Ἐνδοξος Προφήτης, Πρόδρομος καὶ Βαπτιστής Ἰωάννης Ho Hágios/Tímios Endoxos, Prophḗtēs, Pródromos, kaì Baptistḗs Ioánnes) was an itinerant preacherCross, F. L. (ed.) (2005) Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3, article "John the Baptist, St"
and a major religious figureFunk, Robert W. & the Jesus Seminar (1998). The Acts of Jesus: the search for the authentic deeds of Jesus. San Francisco: Harper; "John the Baptist" cameo, p. 268 mentioned in the Canonical gospels and the Qur'an. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River.Crossan, John Dominic (1998). The Essential Jesus. Edison: Castle Books; p. 146 Some scholars maintain that he was influenced by the semi-ascetic Essenes, who expected an apocalypse and practiced rituals corresponding strongly with baptism,Harris, Stephen L. (1985) Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield; p. 382 although there is no direct evidence to substantiate this. John is regarded as a prophet in Christianity, Islam,Yahya ibn Zakariyya the Bahá'í Faith, and Mandaeism.
Most biblical scholars agree that John baptized Jesus at "Bethany beyond the Jordan", by wading into the water with Jesus from the eastern bank.Charles M. Sennott, The body and the blood, Public Affairs Pub, 2003. p 234 Jesus as a figure in history: how modern historians view the man from Galilee. Mark Allan Powell, published by Westminster John Knox Press, page 47 John the Baptist is also mentioned by Jewish historian Josephus,Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.2
in Aramaic Matthew, in the Pseudo-Clementine literature, and in the Qur'an. Accounts of John in the New Testament appear compatible with the account in Josephus."John the Baptist, St." In: Cross, F. L. (ed.) (1997) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press "Outside the NT, John is also mentioned by Josephus (Antiq 18.5.2) in a passage of which there is no good reason to doubt the authenticity. Though there are differences in detail, his account and that in the NT are not incompatible. The place of his imprisonment and death are given as the fortress of Machaerus by the Dead Sea." from page 888 There are no other historical accounts of John the Baptist from around the period of his lifetime.
According to the New Testament, John anticipated a messianic figure who would be greater than himself,Funk, Robert W. & the Jesus Seminar (1998). The Acts of Jesus: the search for the authentic deeds of Jesus.San Francisco: Harper; "Mark," p. 51-161. and Jesus was the one whose coming John foretold. Christians commonly refer to John as the precursor or forerunner of Jesus, since John announces Jesus’ coming. John is also identified with the prophet Elijah.Stephen L. Harris, Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. ISBN 1-55934-655-8 Some of Jesus’ early followers had previously been followers of John.Harris, Stephen L. (1985) Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield Some scholars have further speculated that Jesus was himself a disciple of John for some period of time,Sanders, E.P. (1985) Jesus and Judaism. Philadelphia: Fortress Press; p. 91 but this view is disputed.
Early Jewish Christian sects
Among the early Judaistic (or Gnostic, according to Epiphanius in Panarion, part 30) Christian groups the Ebionites held that John, along with Jesus and James the Just—all of whom they revered—were vegetarians.J Verheyden, Epiphanius on the Ebionites, in The image of the Judaeo-Christians in ancient Jewish and Christian literature, eds Peter J. Tomson, Doris Lambers-Petry, ISBN 3-16-148094-5, pp. 188 "The vegetarianism of John the Baptist and of Jesus is an important issue too in the Ebionite interpretation of the Christian life. "Robert Eisenman (1997), James the Brother of Jesus, p.240 – "John (unlike Jesus) was both a ‘Rechabite’ or ‘Nazarite’ and vegetarian", p.264 – "One suggestion is that John ate ‘carobs’; there have been others. Epiphanius, in preserving what he calls ‘the Ebionite Gospel’, rails against the passage there claiming that John ate ‘wild honey’ and ‘manna-like vegetarian cakes dipped in oil. … John would have been one of those wilderness-dwelling, vegetable-eating persons", p.326 – "They [the Nazerini] ate nothing but wild fruit milk and honey – probably the same food that John the Baptist also ate.", p.367 – "We have already seen how in some traditions ‘carobs’ were said to have been the true composition of John’s food.", p.403 – "his [John’s] diet was stems, roots and fruits. Like James and the other Nazirites/Rechabites, he is presented as a vegetarian ..".James Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty p.134 and footnotes p.335, p.134 – "The Greek New Testament gospels says John’s diet consisted of "locusts and wild honey" but an ancient Hebrew version of Matthew insists that "locusts" is a mistake in Greek for a related Hebrew word that means a cake of some type, made from a desert plant, similar to the "manna" that the ancient Israelites ate in the desert on the days of Moses.(ref 9) Jesus describes John as "neither eating nor drinking," or "neither eating bread nor drinking wine." Such phrases indicate the lifestyle of one who is strictly vegetarian, avoids even bread since it has to be processed from grain, and shuns all alcohol.(ref 10) The idea is that one would eat only what grows naturally.(ref 11) It was a way of avoiding all refinements of civilization." p.102 – "Probably the most interesting of the changes from the familiar New Testament accounts of Jesus comes in the Gospel of the Ebionites description of John the Baptist, who, evidently, like his successor Jesus, maintained a strictly vegetarian cuisine."James A. Kelhoffer, , ISBN 978-3-16-148460-5, pp. 19–21 p.104 – "And when he had been brought to Archelaus and the doctors of the Law had assembled, they asked him who he is and where he has been until then. And to this he made answer and spake: I am pure; [for] the Spirit of God hath led me on, and [I live on] cane and roots and tree-food." Epiphanius of Salamis records that this group had amended their Gospel of Matthew, known today as the Gospel of the Ebionites, to change where John eats "locusts" to read "honey cakes" or "manna".Tabor (2006) Jesus Dynasty p.334 (note 9) – "The Gospel of the Ebionites as quoted by the 4th-century writer Epiphanius. The Greek word for locusts (akris) is very similar to the Greek word for "honey cake" (ekris) that is used for the "manna" that the Israelites ate in the desert in the days of Moses (Exodus 16:32)" & p.335 (note 11) – "There is an old Russian (Slavic) version of Josephus’s Antiquities that describes John the Baptizer as living on ‘roots and fruits of the tree’ and insists that he never touches bread, even at Passover." p.13 – Referring to Epiphanius’ quotation from the Gospel of the Ebionites in Panarion 30.13, "And his food, it says, was wild honey whose taste was of manna, as cake in oil".