John the Baptist

141

John the Baptist : biography

c. 6 BC – c. 30 AD

The saint’s right hand, with which he baptised Jesus, is claimed to be in the Serbian Orthodox Cetinje monastery in Montenegro; Topkapi Palace in Istanbul; and also in the Romanian skete of the Forerunner on Mount Athos. The saint’s left hand is allegedly preserved in the Armenian Apostolic Church of St. John at Chinsurah, West Bengal, where each year on "Chinsurah Day" in January it blesses the Armenians of Calcutta. A crypt and relics said to be John’s and mentioned in 11th- and 16th-century manuscripts, were discovered in 1969 during restoration of the Church of St. Macarius at the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great in Scetes, Egypt; Additional relics are claimed to reside in Gandzasar Monastery’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, in Nagorno Karabakh; [[Cristofano Allori’s John the Baptist in the desert]]

In 2010, bones were discovered in the ruins of a Bulgarian church and two years later, after DNA and radio carbon testing proved the bones belonged to a Middle Eastern man who lived in the 1st century AD, scientists said that the remains could conceivably have belonged to John the Baptist. The remains include six human bones: a knucklebone from the right hand, a tooth, part of a cranium, a rib, and an ulna, or forearm bone.

Biblical references

Old Testament prophecy

Christians believe that John the Baptist had a specific role ordained by God as forerunner or precursor of Jesus, who was the foretold Messiah. The New Testament Gospels speak of this role. In Luke 1:17 the role of John is referred to as being "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." In Luke 1:76 as "…thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways" and in Luke 1:77 as being "To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins."

There are several passages within the Old Testament which are interpreted by Christians as being prophetic of John the Baptist in this role. These include a passage in the Book of Malachi 3:1 that refers to a prophet who would prepare the way of the Lord:

and also at the end of the next chapter in Malachi 4:5-6 where it says,

The Jews of Jesus’ day expected Elijah to come before the Messiah; indeed, some modern Jews continue to await Elijah’s coming as well, as in the Cup of Elijah the Prophet in the Passover Seder. This is why the disciples ask Jesus in Matthew 17:10, ‘Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?.’ The disciples are then told by Jesus that Elijah came in the person of John the Baptist,

(see also 11.14: "...if you are willing to believe their message, John is Elijah, whose coming was predicted.") 

These passages are applied to John in the Synoptic Gospels.Mat 3:3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Mar 1:2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Mar 1:3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.Luk 1:16-17 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. But where Matthew specifically identifies John the Baptist as Elijah (11.14, 17.13), the gospels of Mark and Luke do not actually make that identification, and the Gospel of John states that John the Baptist denied that he was Elijah. Thus there was apparently a shift in eschatological beliefs. (Where Matthew evidently believed that the final judgment was imminent, later authors would have been forced to concede that that "great and terrible day" had not been so imminent after all):