The American Cyclopædia (1879)/John the Baptist
JOHN THE BAPTIST, the forerunner and relative of Christ, son of the priest Zacharias and Elizabeth, and cousin of the Virgin Mary, born at Juttah or at Hebron about 5 B. C., beheaded about the end of A. D. 28. The main particulars of his life are contained in the Gospel of Luke. His birth and office were foretold by the angel Gabriel to his father as he was burning incense in the temple of Jerusalem. When Zacharias asked for some sign of the truth of the prophecy, his tongue was sealed, and he did not recover his speech till after the birth of the child. Six months after Elizabeth had conceived, she was visited by Mary, and at her salutation she felt the babe leap in her womb. John abode in the desert until, a short time before the ministry of Jesus, he appeared clothed with camel's hair and with a leathern girdle about his loins as a prophet in the country about the Dead sea, exhorting the people to repentance, and proclaiming the approach of the Messiah. Those who believed he baptized in the Jordan, announcing at the same time the coming of a mightier one, who should baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire. He recognized the Messiah in Jesus, who presented himself for baptism, and publicly declared him “the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” It is not certain what were the relations between John and Jesus; but the disciples of the former were a separate sect after his death, and still exist in the East under the name of Sabians or Christians of St. John. On account of his censure of the marriage of Herod Antipas with his sister-in-law Herodias, John was imprisoned in the castle of Machærus, and probably it was there that he was beheaded at the instance of Herodias. His birth and death are commemorated by the Roman Catholic church respectively on June 24 and Aug. 29. In England he was formerly esteemed the patron of architects, and was held in special honor by the freemasons. — See, besides the different lives of Jesus, especially those by Hase and Neander, Witsius, De Joanne Baptista (in his Miscellanea Sacra, vol. ii.); Leopold, Johannes der Täufer (Hanover, 1825); and Von Rohden, Johannes der Täufer (Lübeck, 1838). The ecclesiastical traditions concerning John the Baptist are collected in the Acta Sanctorum, vol. iv., and in a compendious form in Tillemont's Memoires, vol. i.