What actions did John the Baptist do?


  • The gospels say that John the Baptist instituted the Christian practice of baptism for the remission of sins.

  • Christians say that John the Baptist heralded the coming of Jesus.
  • Mandaeans say this is not true, he founded their religion but his legacy was stolen by Christian evangelists.

  • Luke's Gospel says that John the Baptist was related to Jesus, but John's Gospel says that John did not even know Jesus. Uta Ranke-Heinemann (Putting Away Childish Things) suggests that Luke's story is a literary creation.

  • The synoptic gospels say that John the Baptist publicly criticised the marriage of Herod Antipas to Herodias and was arrested for this, but that at a party in Galilee Herodias demanded his head on a platter. He died at the very beginning of Jesus mission, before 30 CE.
  • John's Gospel agrees with the synoptic gospel story but attempts to place John's death somewhat later, although still during the lifetime of Jesus.
  • The first century Jewish historian, Josephus says that John the Baptist publicly criticised the marriage of Herod Antipas to Herodias and that Herod Antipas had him arrested and executed in faraway Macherus for fear of an uprising incited by John. Josephus saysthe wedding took place in 34 CE and the execution of John would have been in 35 or 36 CE. The relevant text from Book 18 of Antiquities of the Jews:
"Now many people came in crowds to him, for they were greatly moved by his words. Herod, who feared that the great influence John had over the masses might put them into his power and enable him to raise a rebellion (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it best to put him to death. In this way, he might prevent any mischief John might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late. Accordingly John was sent as a prisoner, out of Herod's suspicious temper, to Macherus, the castle I already mentioned, and was put to death."