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Who Was John the Baptist?

The Bible’s answer

 John the Baptist was a prophet of God. (Luke 1:76) He was born just before the end of the first century B.C.E. and lived into the first century C.E. God commissioned him to prepare the way for the Messiah, or Christ. John did this by preaching God’s message to his fellow Jews in order to turn their hearts back to God.—Mark 1:1-4; Luke 1:13, 16, 17.

 John’s message would help sincere listeners recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah. (Matthew 11:10) John urged his listeners to repent of their sins and then get baptized as a sign of their repentance. (Luke 3:3-6) Because he baptized many people, John is called the Baptist or the Baptizer. The most important baptism John performed was that of Jesus. aMark 1:9.

In this article

 What made John the Baptist unique?

 Life’s work foretold: By his preaching work, John fulfilled the prophecy about Jehovah’s messenger. (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 3:1-3) He proved to be the one who would “get ready for Jehovah a prepared people”—that is, he paved the way for his fellow Jews to accept the message of Jehovah God’s primary representative, Jesus Christ.—Luke 1:17.

 Legacy: Jesus said that “there has not been raised up anyone greater than John the Baptist, but a lesser person in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” (Matthew 11:11) Because John was not only a prophet but also the foretold “messenger,” no servant of God before him could be considered greater. Jesus’ words also show that John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom. b This faithful prophet died before Christ opened the way to life in heaven. (Hebrews 10:19, 20) However, John will be an earthly subject of God’s Kingdom, with the prospect of everlasting life in Paradise.—Psalm 37:29; Luke 23:43.

 Who were John the Baptist’s parents?

 John’s parents were a married couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah was a Jewish priest. John’s birth was miraculous, as his mother was barren, or unable to bear children. Also, she and Zechariah were “well along in years.”—Luke 1:5-7, 13.

 Who caused the death of John the Baptist?

 King Herod Antipas had John beheaded. He did this at the instigation of his wife, Herodias. She hated John because he had told Herod, who was nominally a Jew, that Herod’s marriage to her was illegal under Jewish law.—Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:16-19.

 Were John the Baptist and Jesus rivals?

 The view that they were rivals has absolutely no support in the Bible. (John 3:25-30) In fact, John openly acknowledged that it was his responsibility to prepare the way for the Messiah, not to compete with him. John said: “I came baptizing in water . . . so that he might be made manifest to Israel.” Then he added: “This one is the Son of God.” (John 1:26-34) So John was very happy to hear about Jesus’ successful ministry.

a Jesus “committed no sin.” (1 Peter 2:21, 22) So he was baptized, not because he had to repent, but because he was presenting himself to do God’s will. That included Jesus’ giving his life for us.—Hebrews 10:7-10.

b See the article “Who Go to Heaven?