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Was John A Baptist?

John the Baptist was of the Israelite tribe of Levi (John's father was a Levite priest i.e. Luke 1:5). As a matter of religion, John was a Jew (just as, later, the apostle Paul, who was of the tribe of Benjamin, was a Jew - see Was Paul A Jew or a Benjamite?). John did not regard himself as a "Christian," but rather simply as a Jew who recognized the long-awaited Messiah when He finally came. Christianity was not actually a new religion, but the fruition of an old one. Most of the first Christians were Jews; some of them, before they fully understood that the coming of the Messiah opened the door of salvation to everyone who repents, even believed that only Jews could be Christians (a tragic irony, considering how many other Jews continued to reject Christianity for themselves).

References in the Scriptures to John as the "baptist" are based on the translation of the original Greek word of the New Testament, pronounced bap-tis-tace, which means a baptizer. Further, the Greek word from which the English word baptize originated, pronounced bap-tid-zo, means to completely immerse. The reason for that total immersion in water is because of what the Holy Scriptures say baptism ultimately symbolizes - death (i.e. death of the old self by means of repentance - people who are not repentant refuse and even mock baptism), burial (by "burial" in the water just as the dead are buried in the earth) and resurrection (the coming up out of the water just as the dead will one day come up out of the earth):

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4 KJV)

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance"

John didn't merely recognize the Messiah when He came; John himself fulfilled a prophesied role as the "Elijah to come" for Christ's first coming (see The Elijahs). John's purpose was to proclaim that the Messiah's sacrifice would only benefit the repentant i.e. "were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins ... Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (see below). Otherwise "every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" and "He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (see below).

The Jordan River John's ministry existed to prepare the way for the Messiah. When the Messiah came, John's work was done (see John's Last Days).

"In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea [see Judea, also Who Should Flee Into The Mountains?], And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."

"And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins."

"But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."

"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with The Holy Ghost, and with fire [see Baptism Of Fire]: Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:1-12 KJV)

Jesus Christ plainly identified John as the "Elijah to come" ("Elias" in the King James) of that time:

"And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee."

"Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come." (Matthew 11:7-14 KJV)

Fact Finder: Did baptism originate with John? Or was John, a Levite/Jew, carrying on a practice well-known to Jews?
See The Origin of Baptism; also Old Testament Baptisms


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