John the Baptist
John The Baptist
(Ι᾿ωάννης ὁ βαπτιστήςor simply Ι᾿ωάννης, when the reference is clear, as in Mt 3:4; Mt 4:12; Lat. Joannes [Tacitus, Hist., 5, 12]; Heb.יוֹחָנָן denoting grace, or favor [see Simonis, Lex. N.T. p. 513]). In the Church John commonly bears the honorable title of "forerunner of the Lord" — antecursor et praeparator viarum Domini (Tertull. ad. Marc. 4, 33); in Greek, πρόδρομος, προάγγελος Κυρίου. The accounts of him which the Gospels present are fragmentary and imperfect; they involve, too, some difficulties which the learned have found it hard to remove; yet enough is given to show that he was a man of a lofty character and that the relation in which he stood to Christianity was one of great importance. Indeed, according to our Lord's own testimony, he was a more honored character and distinguished saint than any prophet who had preceded him (Lu 7:28). SEE PROPHET.
1. John was of the priestly race by both parents, for his father Zacharias was himself a priest of the course of Abia, or Abijah (1Ch 24:10), offering incense at the very time when a son was promised to him; and Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron (Lu 1:5), the latter "a cousin" (συγγενής relative) of Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose senior John was by a period of six months (Luke 1). Both parents, too, were devout persons, walking in the commandments of God and waiting for the fulfillment of his promise to Israel. The divine mission of John was the subject of prophecy many centuries before his birth, for Mt 3:3 tells us that it was John who was prefigured by Isaiah as "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Isa 40:3), while by the prophet Malachi the Spirit announces more definitely, "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me" (Isa 3:1). His birth — a birth not according to the ordinary laws of nature, but through the miraculous interposition of Almighty power — was foretold by an angel sent from God, who announced it as an occasion of joy and gladness to many, and at the same time assigned to him the name of John, to signify either that he was to be born of God's especial favor, or, perhaps, that he was to be the harbinger of grace. The angel Gabriel, moreover, proclaimed the character and office of this wonderful child even before his conception, foretelling that he would be filled with the Holy Ghost from the first moment of his existence, and appear as the great reformer of his countrymen — another Elijah in the boldness with which he would speak truth and rebuke vice — but, above all, as the chosen forerunner and herald of the long-expected Messiah. These marvellous revelations as to the character and career of the son for whom he had so long prayed in vain were too much for the faith of the aged Zacharias, and, when he sought some assurance of the certainty of the promised blessing, God gave it to him in a judgment — the privation of speech — until the event foretold should happen — a judgment intended to serve at once as a token of God's truth and a rebuke of his own incredulity. And now the Lord's gracious promise tarried not. Elizabeth, for greater privacy, retired into the hill country, whither she was soon afterwards followed by her kinswoman Mary, who was herself the object and channel of divine grace beyond measure greater and more mysterious. The two cousins, who were thus honored above all the mothers of Israel, came together in a remote city, and immediately God's purpose was confirmed to them by a miraculous, sign; for, as soon as Elizabeth heard the salutations of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, thus acknowledging, as it were, even before birth, the presence of his Lord (Lu 1:43-44). Three months after this, and while Mary still remained with her, Elizabeth was delivered of a son, B.C. 6. The exact spot where John was born is not determined. The rabbins (Otho, Lex. Rabb. p. 324; Witsii Miscell. Sacr. 2, 389) fix on Hebron, in the hill country of Judaea; Paulus, Kuinoel, and Meyer, after Reland, are in favor of Jutta, "a city of Juda." SEE JUTTAH. On the eighth day the child of promise was, in conformity with the law of Moses (Le 12:3), brought to the priest for circumcision, and, as the performance of this rite was the accustomed time for naming a child, the friends of the family proposed to call him Zacharias, after the name of his father. The mother, however, required that he should be called John, a decision which Zacharias, still speechless, confirmed by writing on a tablet, "his name is John." The judgment on his want of faith was then at once withdrawn, and the first use which he made of his recovered speech was to praise Jehovah for his faithfulness and mercy (Lu 1:64). God's wonderful interposition in the birth of John had impressed the minds of many with a certain solemn awe and expectation (Lu 3:15). God was surely again visiting his people. His providence, so long hidden, seemed once more about to manifest itself. The child thus supernaturally born must doubtless be commissioned to perform some important part in the history of the chosen people. Could it be the Messiah? Could it be Elijah? Was the era of their old prophets about to be restored? With such grave thoughts were the minds of the people occupied as they mused on the events which had been passing under their eyes, and said one to another, "What manner of child shall this be?" while Zacharias himself, "filled with the Holy Ghost," broke forth in a glorious strain of praise and prophecy — a strain in which it is to be observed that the father, before speaking of his own child, blesses God for remembering his covenant and promise in the redemption and salvation of his people through him of whom his own son was the prophet and forerunner. A single verse contains all that we know of John's history for a space of thirty years, the whole period which elapsed between his birth and the commencement of his public ministry: "The child grew and waxed strong in the spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel" (Lu 1:80). John it will be remembered, was ordained to be a Nazarite (see Nu 6:1-21) from his birth, for the words of the angel were, "He shall drink neither wine nor strong drink" (Lu 1:15). What we are to understand by this brief announcement is probably this: the chosen forerunner of the Messiah and herald of his kingdom was required to forego the ordinary pleasures and indulgences of the world, and live a life of the strictest self-denial in retirement and solitude. The apocryphal Protev. Jac. ch. 22, states that his mother, in order to rescue her son from the murder of the children at Bethlehem which Herod commanded, fled with him into the desert. She could find no place of refuge, the mountain opened at her request and gave the needed shelter in its bosom. Zacharias, being questioned by Herod as to where his son was to be found, and refusing to answer, was slain by the tyrant. At a later period Elizabeth died, when angels took the youth under their care (Fabricius, Cod. Apocryph. p. 117 sq.; comp. Kuhn, Leben Jesu, 1, 163, remark 4). It was thus that the holy Nazarite, dwelling by himself in the wild and thinly-peopled region westward of the Dead Sea, called "desert" in the text, prepared himself by self-discipline, and by constant communion with God, for the wonderful office to which he had been divinely called. Here year after year of his stern probation passed by, till the time for the fulfilment of his mission arrived. The very appearance of the holy Baptist was of itself a lesson to his countrymen; his dress was that of the old prophets — a garment woven of camel's hair (2Ki 1:8), attached to the body by a leathern girdle. His food was such as the desert spontaneously afforded — locusts (Le 11:22) and wild honey (Ps 81:16) from the rock. (See Endemann, De victu Jo. Bapt. Hersfeld, 1752; Thadd. a St. Adamo, De victu Joa. Bapt. in deserto, Bonn, 1785; Müller, Varia de victu Joa. Baptist. Bonn, 1829; Hackett, Illustr. of Script. p. 96.) Desert though the place is designated, the country where he spent these early years — the wild mountainous tract of Judah lying between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, along which it stretches — was not entirely destitute of means for supporting human existence (Mt 3:1-12; Mr 1:1-8; Lu 3:1-20; Joh 10:28; Justin Martyr, Dial. cum Tryph. c. 88). Josephus, in his Life (2, 2), gives an account of one of his instructors, Banus, which throws light on John's condition in the desert: "He lived in the desert, and had no other food than what grew of its own accord, and bathed himself in cold water frequently, both by night and by day. I imitated him in these things, and continued with him three years." Some writers infer that John was an Essene; so says, e.g. Taylor, editor of Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible; comp. Johnson, Monks before Christ (Bost. 1870, 12mo), p. 109 sq. But this is denied by Rénan, Vie de Jesus (13th ed. Paris, 1867), p. 101 sq.
2. At length, in the fifteenth year of the associate reign of the emperor Tiberius (see Jarvis, Chronicles Introd. p. 228 sq., 462 sq.), or A.D. 25, the long-secluded hermit came forth to the discharge of his office. His supernatural birth, his hard ascetic life, his reputation for extraordinary sanctity, and the generally-prevailing expectation that some great one was about to appear — these causes, without the aid of miraculous power, for "John did no miracle" (Joh 10:41), were sufficient to attract to him a great multitude from "every quarter" (Mt 3:5). Brief and startling was his first exhortation to them — "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." A few scores of verses contain all that is recorded of John's preaching, and the sum of it all is repentance — not mere legal ablution or expiation, but a change of heart and life. Herein John, though exhibiting a marked contrast to the scribes and Pharisees of his own time, was but repeating, with the stimulus of a new and powerful motive, the lessons which had been again and again impressed upon them by their ancient prophets (comp. Isa 1:16-17; Isa 55:7; Jer 7:3-7; Eze 18:19-32; Eze 36:25-27; Joe 2:12-13; Mic 6:8; Zec 1:3-4). But, while such was his solemn admonition to the multitude at large, he adopted towards the leading sects of the Jews a severer tone, denouncing Pharisees and Sadducees alike as "a generation of vipers," and warning them of the folly of trusting to external privileges as descendants of Abraham (Lu 3:8). Now at last, he warns them that "the axe was laid to the root of the tree," that formal righteousness would be tolerated no longer, and that none would be acknowledged for children of Abraham but such as did the works of Abraham (comp. Joh 8:39). Such alarming declarations produced their effect and many of every class pressed forward to confess their sins and to be baptized.
What, then, was the baptism which John administered? SEE WASHING. (Comp. Olshausen, Comment. ad loc. Job.; Dale, Johannic Baptism, Phila. 1871.) Not altogether a new rite, for it was the custom of the Jews to baptize proselytes to their religion; not an ordinance in itself conveying remission of sins, but rather a token and symbol of that repentance which was an indispensable condition of forgiveness through him whom John pointed out as "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world." Still less did the baptism of John impart the grace of regeneration of a new spiritual life (Ac 19:3-4). This was to be the mysterious effect of baptism "with the Holy Ghost," which was to be ordained by that "mightier one" whose coming he proclaimed. The preparatory baptism of John was a visible sign to the people, and a distinct acknowledgment by them that a hearty renunciation of sin and a real amendment of life were necessary for admission into the kingdom of heaven, which the Baptist proclaimed to be at hand. But the fundamental distinction between John's baptism unto repentance and that baptism accompanied with the gift of the Holy Spirit which our Lord afterwards ordained is clearly marked by John himself (Mt 3:11-12). SEE BAPTISM OF JOHN. As a preacher, John was eminently practical and discriminating. Self love and covetousness were the prevalent sins of the people at large on them, therefore, he enjoined charity and consideration for others. The publicans he cautioned against extortion, the soldiers against violence and plunder. His answers to them are, no doubt, to be regarded as instances of the appropriate warning and advice which he addressed to every class. The first reason assigned by John for entering on his most weighty and perilous office was announced in these words: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." It was his great work to prepare the mind of the nation, so that when Jesus himself came they might be a people made ready for the Lord. What was the exact idea which John intended to convey by the term "kingdom of heaven" it is not easy, at least in the space before us, to determine with satisfaction. (See Richter. De munere sacro Joanni Bapt. divinitus delegato, Lips. 1756.) We feel ourselves, however, justified in protesting against the practice of those who take the vulgar Jewish notion and ascribe it to John, while some go so far as to deny that our Lord himself, at the first, possessed any other. Had we space to develop the moral character of John, we could show that this fine, stern, high-minded teacher possessed many eminent qualities; but his personal and official modesty in keeping, in all circumstances, in the lower rank assigned him by God must not pass without special mention. The doctrine and manner of life of John appear to have roused the entire of the south of Palestine, and people flocked from all parts to the spot where, on the banks of the Jordan, he baptized thousands unto repentance. Such, indeed, was the fame which he had gained, that "people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not" (Lu 3:15). Had he chosen, John might without doubt have assumed to himself the higher office, and risen to great worldly power; but he was faithful to his trust, and never failed to declare, in the fullest and clearest manner, that he was not the Christ, but merely his harbinger, and that the sole work he had to do was to usher in the day spring from on high. (See Beecher, Life of Jesus, vol. 1, ch. 5.)
The more than prophetic fame of the Baptist reached the ears of Jesus in his Nazarene dwelling, far distant from the locality of John (Mt 2:9,11). The nature of the report — namely, that his divinely-predicted forerunner had appeared in Judaea — showed our Lord that the time had now come for his being made manifest to Israel. The mission of the baptist — an extraordinary one for an extraordinary purpose — was not limited to those who had openly forsaken the covenant of God, and so forfeited its principles; it was to the whole people alike. This we must infer from the baptism of one who had no confession to make, and no sins to wash away. Jesus himself came from Galilee to Jordan to be baptized of John, on the special ground that it became him "to fulfil all righteousness," and, as man, to submit to the customs and ordinances which were binding upon the rest of the Jewish people. John, however, naturally at first shrank from offering the symbols of purity to the sinless Son of God. Immediately on the termination of this symbolical act, a divine attestation was given from the opened vault of heaven, declaring Jesus to be in truth the long looked-for Messiah —"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3:17). The events which are found recorded in Joh 1:19 sq. seem to have happened after the baptism of Jesus by John. SEE JESUS CHRIST.
Here a difficult question arises — How is John's acknowledgment of Jesus at the moment of his presenting himself for baptism compatible with his subsequent assertion that he knew him not save by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him, which took place after his baptism? It is difficult to imagine that the two cousins did not personally recognize each other, from their close relationship, and the account which John could not have failed to receive of the remarkable circumstances attending Jesus' birth; hence his general deference at that time, but his explicit testimony subsequently (see Kuinol, Alford, Comment. on Mt 3:14). The supposition that John was not personally acquainted with Jesus is therefore out of the question (see Lücke, Comment. on Joh 1:31). Yet it must be borne in mind that their places of residence were at the two extremities of the country, with but little means of communication between them. Perhaps, too, John's special destination and mode of life may have kept him from the stated festivals of his countrymen at Jerusalem. It is possible, therefore, that the Savior and the Baptist had not often met. It was certainly of the utmost importance that there should be no suspicion of concert or collusion between them. John, however, must assuredly have been in daily expectation of Christ's manifestation to Israel, and so a word or sign would have sufficed to reveal to him the person and presence of our Lord, though we may well suppose such a fact to be made known by a direct communication from God, as in the case of Simeon (Lu 2:26; comp. Jackson on the Creed, Works. Oxf. ed. 6, 404). At all events, it is wholly inconceivable that John should have been permitted to baptize the Son of God without being enabled to distinguish him from any of the ordinary multitude. Upon the whole, the true meaning of the words κἀγώ οὐκ ῆδειν αὐτόν would seem to be as follows: And I, even I, though standing in so near a relation to him, both personally and ministerially, had no assured knowledge of him as the Messiah. I did not know him, and I had not authority to proclaim him as such till I saw the predicted sign in the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him. It must be borne in mind that John had no means of knowing by previous announcement whether this wonderful acknowledgment of the divine Son would be vouchsafed to his forerunner at his baptism or at any other time (see Dr. Mill's Hist. Character of St. Luke's Gospel, and the authorities quoted by him). SEE BAPTISM OF JESUS.
With the baptism of Jesus John's more especial office ceased. The king had come to his kingdom. The function of the herald was discharged. It was this that John had with singular humility and self-renunciation announced beforehand: "He must increase, but I must decrease." It seems but natural to think, therefore, when their hitherto relative position is taken into account, that John would forthwith lay down his office of harbinger, which, now that the Sun of Righteousness himself had appeared, was entirely fulfilled and terminated. Such a step he does not appear to have taken. From incidental notices we learn that John and his disciples continued to baptize some time after our Lord entered upon his ministry (see Joh 3:23; Joh 4:1). We gather also that John instructed his disciples in certain moral and religious duties, as fasting (Mt 9:14; Lu 5:33) and prayer (Lu 11:1). In short, the language of Scripture seems to imply that the Baptist Church continued side by side with the Messianic (Mt 11:3; Lu 7:19; Joh 14:25), and remained long after John's execution (Ac 19:3). Indeed, a sect which bears the name of "John's disciples" exists to the present day in the East, whose sacred books are said to be pervaded by a Gnostic leaven. (See Gesenius, in the Allgem. Literaturzeitung, 1817, No. 48, p. 378, and in the Hall. Encyclop., probeheft, p. 95 sq.; Burckhardt, Les Nazoréeans apellés Zaebiens et Chrétiens de St. Jean, secte Gnostique, Strasb. 1810; also Blarkey, in the Bibl. Hag. 4, 355 sq.; Schaff, Apost. Hist. p. 279 sq.). SEE JOHN, ST., CHRISTIANS OF. They are hostile alike to Judaism and Christianity, and their John and Jesus are altogether different from the characters bearing these names in our evangelists. Still, though it has been generally assumed that John did not lay down his office, we are not satisfied that the New Testament establishes this alleged fact. John may have ceased to execute his own peculiar work as the forerunner, but may justifiably have continued to bear his most important testimony to the Messiahship of Christ; or he may even have altogether given up the duties of active life some time, at least, before his death; and yet his disciples, both before and after that event, may have maintained their individuality as a religious communion. Nor will the student of the New Testament and of ecclesiastical history, who knows how grossly a teacher far greater than John was, both during his life and after his crucifixion, misunderstood and misrepresented, think it impossible that some misconception or some sinister motive may have had weight in preventing the Baptist Church from dissolving and passing into that of Christ. (See Weber, J. d. Täufer und die Parteien seiner Zeit, Gotha, 1870.) It was, not improbably, with a view to remove some error of this kind that John sent the embassy of his disciples to Jesus which is recorded in Mt 11:3; Lu 7:19. The spiritual course which the teachings of Jesus were more and more taking, and the apparent failure, or at least uneasy postponement of the promised kingdom in the popular sense, especially after their esteemed master lay in prison, and was in imminent danger of losing his life, may well have led John's disciples to doubt if Jesus were in truth the expected Messiah; but no intimation is found in the record that John required evidence to give him satisfaction. (See below.) Be that as it may, it is certain that John still continued to present himself to his countrymen in the capacity of witness to Jesus. Especially did he bear testimony to him at Bethany beyond Jordan (for Bethany, not Bethabara, is the reading of the best MSS.). So confidently, indeed, did he point out the Lamb of God, on whom he had seen the Spirit alighting like a dove, that two of his own disciples, Andrew, and probably John, being convinced by his testimony, followed Jesus as the true Messiah.
3. But shortly after he had given his testimony to the Messiah, John's public ministry was brought to a close. He had, at the beginning of it, condemned the hypocrisy and worldliness of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and he had now occasion to denounce the lust of a king. In daring disregard of the divine laws, Herod Antipas had taken to himself the wife of his brother Philip; and when John reproved him for this, as well as for other sins (Lu 3:19), Herod cast him into prison. Josephus, however, assigns a somewhat different cause for Herod's act from that given in the Gospels: "Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, although he was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness one towards another and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism. Now when others came in crowds about him — for they were greatly moved by hearing his words — Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise a rebellion (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it should be too late. Accordingly he was sent a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Machaerus, the castle I before mentioned, and was there put to death" (Ant. 18, 5, 2). There is no contrariety between this account and that which is given in the New Testament. (See Lamy, Diss. de vinculis Joa. Bapt.; Van Til, De Joa. Bapt. incarceratione fictitia Herodiana vincula antecedente, L.B. 1710.) Both may be true: John was condemned in the mind of Herod on political grounds, as endangering his position, and executed on private and ostensible grounds, in order to gratify a malicious but powerful woman. The scriptural reason was but the pretext for carrying into effect the determination of Herod's cabinet. That the fear of Herod was not without some ground may be seen in the popularity which John had gained (Mr 11:32; see Lardner, Works, 6, 483).
The castle of Machaerus, where John was imprisoned and beheaded, was a fortress lying on the southern extremity of Peraea, at the head of the Lake Asphaltites, between the dominions of Herod and Aretas, king of Arabia Petraea, and at the time of our history appears to have belonged to the former (Lardner, 6, 483). It was here that the above-mentioned reports reached him of the miracles which our Lord was working in Judaea — miracles which, doubtless, were to John's mind but the confirmation of what he expected to hear as to the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom. But if Christ's kingdom were indeed established, it was the duty of John's own disciples, no less than of all others, to acknowledge it. They, however, would naturally cling to their own master, and be slow to transfer their allegiance to another. With a view, therefore, to overcome their scruples, John sent two of them to Jesus himself to ask the question, "Art thou he that should come?" They were answered not by words, but by a series of miracles wrought before their eyes — the very miracles which prophecy had specified as the distinguishing credentials of the Messiah (Isa 35:5; Isa 61:1); and while Jesus bade the two messengers carry back to John as his only answer the report of what they had seen and heard, he took occasion to guard the multitude who surrounded him against supposing that the Baptist himself was shaken in mind, by a direct appeal to their own knowledge of his life and character. Well might they be appealed to as witnesses that the stern prophet of the wilderness was no waverer, bending to every breeze, like the reeds on the banks of Jordan. Proof abundant had they that John was no worldling, with a heart set upon rich clothing and dainty fare — the luxuries of a king's court — and they must have been ready to acknowledge that one so inured to a life of hardness and privation was not likely to be affected by the ordinary terrors of a prison. But our Lord not only vindicates his forerunner from any suspicion of inconstancy, he goes on to proclaim him a prophet, and more than a prophet; nay, inferior to none born of woman, though in respect to spiritual privileges behind the least of those who were to be born of the Spirit and admitted into the fellowship of Christ's body (Mt 11:11). It should be noted that the expression ὁ δὲ μικρότερος, κ. τ. λ., is understood by Chrysostom, Augustine, Hilary, and some modern commentators to mean Christ himself, but this interpretation is less agreeable to the spirit and tone of our Lord's discourse. Jesus further proceeds to declare that John was, according to the true meaning of the prophecy, the Elijah of the new covenant, foretold by Malachi (Mal 3:4).
The event, indeed, proved that John was to Herod what Elijah had been to Ahab, and a prison was deemed too light a punishment for his boldness in asserting God's law before the face of a king and a queen. Nothing but the death of the Baptist would satisfy the resentment of Herodias. Though foiled once, she continued to watch her opportunity, which at length arrived. A court festival was kept in honor of the king's birthday. After supper the daughter of Herodias, came in and danced before the company, and so charmed was the king by her grace that he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she should ask. Salome, prompted by her abandoned mother, demanded the head of John the Baptist. The promise had been given in the hearing of his distinguished guests, and so Herod, though loath to be made the instrument of so bloody a work, gave instructions to an officer of his guard, who went and executed John in the prison, and his head was brought to feast the eyes of the adulteress whose sins he had denounced. SEE HERODIAS. According to the Scripture account, the daughter of Herodias obtained the Baptist's head at the entertainment, without delay. How could this be when Machaerus lay at a distance from Jerusalem? The feast seems to have been made at Machaerus, which, besides being a stronghold, was also a palace, built by Herod the Great, and here Antipas appears to have been spending some time with his paramour Herodias.
4. Thus was John added to that glorious army of martyrs who have suffered for righteousness' sake. His death seems to have occurred just before the third Passover, in the course of the Lord's ministry, A.D. 28. Herod undoubtedly looked upon him as some extraordinary person, for no sooner did he hear of the miracles of Jesus than, though a Sadducee himself, and, as such, a disbeliever in the resurrection, he ascribed them to John, whom he supposed to have risen from the dead. SEE HEROD ANTIPAS. Holy Scripture tells us that the body of the Baptist was laid in the tomb by his disciples, and ecclesiastical history records the honors which successive generations paid to his memory. He is mentioned in the Koran, with much honor, under the name of Jahja (see Hottinger, Historia Orientalis, p. 144-149, Tigur. 1660; Herbelot, Biblioth. Or. 2, 283 sq.).
The brief history of John's life is marked throughout with the characteristic graces of self-denial, humility, and holy courage. So great, indeed, was his abstinence that worldly men considered him possessed. "John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said he hath a devil." His humility was such that he had again and again to disavow the character and decline the honors which an admiring multitude almost forced upon him. To their questions he answered plainly he was not the Christ, nor the Elijah of whom they were thinking, nor one of their old prophets. He was no one — a voice merely — the voice of God calling his people to repentance in preparation for the coming of him whose shoe latchet he was not worthy to unloose. For his boldness in speaking truth, he went a willing victim to prison and to death.
Resembling, though John did, in so many things the Elijah of former days, the exit of the one from his field of labor was remarkable for its humiliating circumstances, as the other for its singular glory — the one dying as a felon by the hand of the executioner, the other, without tasting at all of death, ascending to heaven in a chariot of fire. But in John's case it could not be otherwise; the forerunner, no more than the disciple, could be above his Master; and especially in the treatment of the one must the followers of Jesus be prepared for what was going to be accomplished in the other. After John's death, and growing out of it, a whole series of special actions and discourses were directed to this end by our Lord. The manner of John's death, therefore, is on no account to be regarded as throning a depreciatory reflection on his position and ministry. He was, as Christ himself testified, "a burning and a shining light" (Joh 5:35), and he fulfilled his arduous course in a truly noble and valiant spirit. — Fairbairn.
5. For the literature connected with this subject, see, besides the treatises noticed above, — Hase, Leben Jesu (4th ed. Leipzig, 1854), p. 82, 86, 149; Volbeding, Index Programmatum, p. 20 sq., 23, 125; Walch, Bibliotheca Theologica, 3, 402; Witsii Exerc. de Joanne Bapt. (in his Miscell. Sacra, 2, 367); Leopold, Johannes der Täufer (Hannov. 1825); Usteri. Nachrichten von Johannes dem Täufer (in the Studien und Kritiken, 1829, 3:439); Von Rohden, Johannes der Täufer (Lübeck, 1838); Neander, Leb. Jesu (Hamb. 1837), p. 49; Keim, Leb. Jesu, 1, 469-523; Hausrath, Leben Jesu, p. 316-340. The ecclesiastical traditions touching John may be found in the Acta Sanct. 4, 687-846; and, in a compendious form, in Tillemont. Mémoires, 1, 82-108, 482-505. Other treatises of a more special character, in addition to those above cited, are: Hottinger, Pentas dissert. Bibl. chronol. (Traj. a. R. 1723) p. 143 sq.; Deyling, Observationes sacr. 3, 251 sq.; Ammon, Pr. de doctrina et morte Jo. Bapt. (Erlangen; 1809); Rau, Pr. de Joan. Bapt. in rem Christ. studiis (Frlang. 1785), 2, 4; Abegg, Orat. de Jo. Bapt. (Heidelb. 1820); Bax, Specim. de Jo. Bapt. (L. B. 1821); Stein, Ueb. Gesch. Lehre u. Schicksale Joh. d. T. (in Keil's Analect. 4, 1, 37 sq.); Wessenberg, Johannes der Vorläufer uns. Herrn (Constanz, 1821); Müller, Pr. de Jo. Bapt. (Helmst. 1733); Asp. Obs. Phil. hist. de Jo. Bapt. (Upsala, 1733) Lisco, Biblische Beitr. über J. d. Täufer (Berlin, 1826); Eckhard, Josephus de Jo. Bapt. testatus (Eisen. 1785); Harenberg, De cibo Jo. Bapt. (in Otia Gand. sacra, Traj. ad R. 1740, p. 1 sq.); Amnele, Amictus et victus J. Bpt. (Upsal. 1755); Stollberg, id. (Vitemb. 1673); Carpzov, De cultu Jo. B. Antiquat. Chr. (Rome, 1755); Huth, Num. Jo. B. Maria et discip. Chr. fuerint baptizati (Erlangen, 1759); Blatt, A Dissert. on John's Message to our Savior (London, 1789); Zeigermann, Comm. de consil. quo Jo. discip. ad Jesum ablegaverit (Nuremb. 1813); Frank, Joh. d. Täufer (Eisleben, 1841); Kromayer, De baptisme Christi (Lips. 1680).