It is very difficult for many Christians to wrap their heads around John the Baptist. Eastern Christianity refers to him as the Forerunner of Jesus, but most people think of him as the Runner-up to Jesus, a kind of “also ran”.  John met a particularly gruesome end[1], performed no miracles, and even predicted the continual and eventual  reduction of his own following.[2] He didn’t seem to be a particularly pleasant fellow, referring to people as a brood of vipers[3], and wearing a shirt of camelhair. [4]

 Yet, Christianity (and not to mention me) has a fascination with John.  An icon of John occupies a place of honor on Orthodox Church icon screens, usually to the left of the icon of Jesus. Great Cathedrals and churches are named after him.  Multiple holydays commemorate him[5].  In fact, the Mandaeans, a small religious group believe it was John and not Jesus who was the true Messiah.[6]

Why this fascination with John? Some reasons are:

John is mentioned in all four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.  This illustrates the strength of his following in the early days of the Church and the fact Jesus went to seek out John.  The theological reason is Jesus wished to establish the sacrament of Baptism[7], but many scholars simply believe he was an early follower of John.  The Evangelists needed to explain the relationship between John and Jesus. Luke goes so far as to make John and Jesus cousins.[8]

Josephus mentions John.  Josephus chronicled the Roman and Jewish wars. Many historians have cast a jaundiced eye on the accuracy of Josephus’ recount of the siege of Masada, but no one has seriously doubted Josephus accounts of John. The fact John is mentioned in Josephus shows John has a large enough following that it attracted the attention of the authorities.

John was the last prophet and the greatest of men. The Gospel of Mark, the second book of the New Testament, but probably the first of the Gospels to be written, begins with John roaring in from the desert and preaching repentance.[9]  Jesus refers to John as the greatest of men[10]. The voice of John bridges the gap from the Jewish Scriptures to the New Testament. 

There are many relics of John, and archeological sites associated with him.  The Biblical Archeology Society believes a cave in the Middle East may have been used by John the Baptist.[11]  Relics of John abound, including his head [12]and the bones of his right hand in Eastern Europe.[13]   Even though he did not perform any himself during his life, many have been claimed for him since his death.

My fascination with John the Baptist began when three inexplicable events[14] happened in my personal life. All three could have been coincidental, or all three could have been miraculous. I don’t know if these events were miraculous or not, nor am I qualified to say.  The only thing I can say is each of these events happened on a holyday associated with John the Baptist and were directly associated with John the Baptist.  Christian and Orthodox theology holds Saints can be intercessors for those on earth.  The only thing I know is I need all the friends I can get.  Certainly, my personal fascination and attention to John the Baptist is only going to increase. 

Note: all internet sources were referenced on June 2, 2019.

[1] Matthew 14.

[2] John 3:30.

[3] Luke 3:7

[4] We are not talking about a fashionable camel hair jacket here.  We are talking about a hair cloth, worn as an act of mortification.  See This by itself could definitely hurt your disposition.

[5] Eastern Christianity has seven: September 23, The Conception of  John the Baptist; January 7, The Synaxis of John the Baptist; February 24, First and Second Finding of the Head of John the Baptist; May 25,Third Finding of the Head of John the Baptist; June 24,  Nativity of John the Baptist; and  29 August, The Beheading of John the Baptist

[6] In fact, they refer to Jesus as a false prophet.

[7] Another little shot at John.  Remember, John preached a Baptism of repentance, and not one of initiation.

[8] Luke 1: 41:44. The pro-life movement has used these verses in its anti-abortion work.

[9] Mark 1:1-8.  Mark’s Gospel is symbolized by the lion for this reason. Additionally, the parents of John, Zachariah and Elizabeth are commemorated on September 5.

[10] Matthew 11:11. Yet even here John’s status is diminished as Jesus says the least in Heaven will be greater than John.


[12] Of which there are various claimants.  Some have even suggested the Head of John the Baptist, was Baphomet, a head the Knights Templars were said to have worshipped.

[13] For instance, see

[14] For the sake of the privacy of those involved, I won’t discuss the circumstance of each.