Background on John the Baptist for the Gospel of John

I’m in a series of articles studying the Gospel of John. Several times in the first chapter, the author makes reference to a man named John. The Apostle John (the author of the gospel) is referring to a man named John the Baptist. 

But as we study the Gospel of John, who is John the Baptist, and why does he matter? 

He’s often called “John the Baptist.” That title is referring to what John did rather than a denominational affiliation. It’s not that we had John the Baptist, Peter the Presbyterian, and Paul the Methodist. 

Next thing. He’s mentioned in all four gospel, and in all of the gospels, he’s introduced prior to the ministry of Jesus. So he’s pretty important. 

Between the gospels, they give us accounts of both John’s birth and death. I can’t think of any other New Testament figure besides Jesus where that could be said. 

We find out in the Gospel of Luke that John’s mom, Elizabeth is a relative of Mary which means that John the Baptist is related to Jesus. And John is a few months older than the Lord. 

After John the Baptist is born, his father gives a prophecy to his son’s life. 

Luke 1:76-77: 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,

Luke chapter 1 ends with an interesting note about John: 

Verse 80: And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

He was in the wilderness until the day of his publican appearance in Israel.

There’s not a whole lot of elaboration on that. 

We know nothing about his formative years. He was in the wilderness. Some scholars suggest the possibility that John may have actually be raised within a small community within the wilderness. That’s speculation, but it would make historical sense. 

John is related to Jesus, but the gospels tell us nothing about how well they may have known each other. It doesn’t seem like they grew up going to a family dinner every week.  

When his ministry began, it quickly grew in popularity. Matthew 3:5-6: 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Several years after John’s death, the Apostle Paul is ministering in Ephesus in Acts 19. Ephesus is several hundred miles away from Judea but people talk of the baptism which John practiced, showing that his name and reputation were known throughout the region. 

John also faced persecution during his life. He was arrested and later executed under the Romans in Matthew 14. 

Thanks for reading! This article is part of a series in the Gospel of John! If you liked it, please share and subscribe.