The Time of John’s Birth
The Bible doesn’t mention the time of year when John the Baptist was born. However, the ancient Alexandrian church is said to have celebrated this event on the 23rd of April. The fact that this date is based on a very early tradition, there may be reason to think that it represents at least the approximate time of year when his birth took place.
The church in Alexandria later on altered the date of the holiday to June 24—a date randomly set so as to be six months from December 25—in order to be in harmony with the practice of the Greek and Latin churches.
With April 23 as the possible date for the birth of John the Baptist, the birth of Jesus would have been about October 19 (Matthew 2:1). It should be stressed that this calculation is founded only on an ancient tradition whose merit and credibility are not verified.
Who Was John the Baptist?
John the Baptist was a great Jewish prophet in the early 1st century AD. The Gospels declare him as the forerunner of Jesus, since he announced Jesus’ coming and prepared the people for Jesus’ ministry. He declared, “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the LORD” (John 1:23).
Jesus Himself identified John as “Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 17:10-13) which is a direct reference to the prophecy of Malachi (ch. 4:5). And this had been confirmed by the angel who announced John’s birth to his father Zacharias (Luke 1:17). According to the Gospel of Luke, John the Baptist and Jesus were relatives (Luke 1:26-42).
Some scholars assert that John belonged to the Essenes, a semi-ascetic Judaic sect who waited for the messiah and practiced the rite of baptism. John used baptism as the main rite of his pre-messianic call to repentance (John 3:23). Jesus asked John to baptize Him to lay an example for the believers (Matthew 3:13-17).
When John the Baptist was asked by the Pharisees. “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose” (John 1:25-27). Then, he declared that Jesus is the lamb of God – the Savior of mankind (John 1:29). Some of Jesus’ early followers had been followers of John (Luke 7:29).
According to the New Testament, John was beheaded by Herod Antipas (around AD 30) because the prophet rightly rebuked the king for divorcing his wife Phasaelis and then wedding Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip (Matthew 14:1-12).
Jesus declared of John, “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).
In His service,