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Rabbi John

"John the Baptist" is one of the most well-known people of Bible History (keeping in mind that "John" is an English name; his actual name in Hebrew was pronounced yo-khaw-nawn - and that although the New Testament was written in Greek, most of the actual words spoken by the people recorded in it were in Hebrew). But what was he really? Most surely, he baptized people, as part of his prophesied ministry, but he wasn't a "Baptist" in the modern-day idea of that term - when John lived, the Church of Rome didn't yet exist, nor did the "Baptist" church that was formed from the Church of Rome after the "Protestant Reformation" centuries later (and John most-surely would have had nothing to do with the antichrist doctrines of either one of them).

John was a Levite (see Levites; also No Levites In The Lost Ten Tribes?), the son of a Levite who served in the Temple at Jerusalem (the primary reason that, while Jesus and John were only a few months apart in age, John's parents did not have to hide the not born in Bethlehem John to escape the slaughter of Bethlehem children that was ordered by Herod i.e. he "slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof" Matthew 2:16 KJV; see The Herods).

John did not merely decide to be a "preacher." The instructions were given to John's father Zacharias (also rendered into English as Zechariah) before John was born. John's father raised his son to be a teacher, just like his father, as the LORD commanded him to prepare his son to do.

"1:11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 1:12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 1:14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. 1:16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:11-17 KJV)

"And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him"

When his son was born to his wife Elizabeth, Zacharias obeyed the LORD (see 'Before Abraham Was, I AM') and named him John, thereby beginning the preparation of the one who would be given to prepare the way for the coming of The Messiah.

The Holy Scriptures

"1:57 Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 1:58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.

1:59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child [see also Circumcision]; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 1:60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.

1:61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.

1:62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 1:63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 1:64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. 1:65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. 1:66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him." (Luke 1:57-66 KJV)

Zacharias, from then filled with the Holy Spirit (John was filled with the Holy Spirit right from conception i.e. "he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb," quoted above), prophesied the mission of his son, for which Zacharias was given to prepare him.

"1:67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,

1:68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 1:69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 1:70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 1:71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 1:72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 1:73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 1:74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 1:75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

1:76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways [see The Elijahs]; 1:77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 1:78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 1:79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:67-79 KJV)

While many regard John as a "man of the wilderness," as though he were always there, John's father was not a man of the wild country; he was a Levite who raised his son in his own home. An infant cannot survive on his own in the wilderness, nor can a boy - only a grown man who has left the home of his parents can do that. And that is what the Scriptures say that John did: "the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit," and when he was able to look after himself, he was "in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel."

"1:80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel." (John 1:80 KJV)

The term "Rabbi" means teacher. John, when his ministry began, had "disciples" (which merely means students), which made John a Rabbi to them. It was "John the Rabbi" that baptized people in the Jordan River, in preparation for the coming of the Christ (see The Prophets: John The Baptist).

"3:25 Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying. 3:26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.

3:27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. 3:28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 3:29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

3:31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. 3:32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. 3:33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. 3:34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. 3:35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:25-36 KJV)

Fact Finder: (a) Was Jesus Christ also frequently and routinely called "Rabbi" by His disciples (i.e. students)? (b) While He was a "Rabbi" (i.e. a teacher), why wasn't Jesus a Levite?
(a) John 1:38, 1:49, 3:1-2, 6:24-25 (for those new to the Bible, note that the book of John was written by the apostle John, not John the Baptist)
(b) See Why Wasn't Christ A Levite?

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Copyright © Wayne Blank