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Did John the Baptist Really Exist?

The Gospel accounts mention a man called John the Baptist, who preached in Judea regarding God’s Kingdom. Is the Bible’s record of this man accurate? Consider:

  • The Bible says: “John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matthew 3:1, 2) Can this statement be confirmed by secular sources? Yes.

    The first-century historian Flavius Josephus described a man named “John, surnamed the Baptist,” who “exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives,” to practice “piety towards God,” and “to join in baptism.”—Jewish Antiquities, Book XVIII.

  • The Bible relates that John reproved Herod Antipas, who was district ruler in Galilee and Perea. Herod was nominally a Jew professing to be under the Law. John criticized Herod for marrying his half brother’s wife Herodias. (Mark 6:18) This detail likewise finds support outside the Bible.

    Historian Josephus said that Antipas “[fell] in love with Herodias” and “brazenly broached to her the subject of marriage.” Herodias accepted and left her husband to marry Antipas.

  • The Bible reports that “the people of Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country around the Jordan were going out to [John], and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”—Matthew 3:5, 6.

    Josephus likewise supports this detail, writing that people came in “crowds” to see John and that “they were aroused [or, uplifted] to the highest degree by his sermons.”

Clearly, the first-century historian Josephus viewed John the Baptist as a real person. So can we.