John the Baptist


I am hoping one of you guys could help me understand this.

Was John the Baptist Jesus cousin or not as in one gospel he is and in another John did not know Jesus.

I’m a bit confused.

Thanks in advance.


Are you referring to Lk. 7[20] And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, `Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”


Elizabeth was a kinswoman of Mary so we know that they were related in some way, although we aren't exactly sure whether Elizabeth was a cousin, aunt, or what. This means that John the Baptist was related to Jesus. So if Elizabeth and Mary are first cousins, John the Baptist and Jesus are second cousins. If Elizabeth is Mary's aunt then John the Baptist is Jesus' first cousin once removed. I think that's right.


Luke 1:36 says that Elizabeth and Mary were close relatives. That would make Jesus and John the Baptist relatives too.

John 1 does not say that John lacked ALL knowledge of Jesus, it just says he didn’t know he was the Messiah, if you examine the context: John 1:
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’
31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.
33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” From that you can see that John knew who Jesus was, but did not know He was the Messiah, until the Holy Spirit made it known. I hope that helps. God bless!


That did help. I must start to re read things and try and understand a lot better.

Many thanks for all you time and help. :slight_smile:


I’ve been reading the commentary of the early church fathers on scripture (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Intervarsity Press).

I forget now which bishops commented on John the Baptist, but I recalled how they marvelled over how he was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets: He did not foretell the coming of the Messiah, he actually pointed him out saying, in effect, there he is! the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

They go on to say how John was filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, such that he stirred when Mary (and Jesus) came into her presence.

All this being said, it puzzles me why somewhat later, I think when John is in prison, he sends his disciples to question Jesus who he really is, should they look for another? The tendency of scripture scholars is to look for explanations that would tend to harmonize different verses, seemingly contradictory verses. I don’t recall if there is any commentary that harmonizes John’s doubts about Jesus.

There IS the patristic observation that John represents the Old Testament, and his imprisonment symbolizes the end, the sequestering, of the Old Testament, and even the ‘death’ of the OT with his physical death.


One possibility is that John was influenced by belief that the Messiah’s reign would be an earthly one. Many people thought the Messiah would overthrow the Romans and ultimately be enthroned in Jerusalem. The ministry of Jesus, however, did not go in this direction so John may have been seeking confirmation that he indeed was the Messiah.


From Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary:

Ver. 3. Art thou he that is to come?[1] (Greek, who cometh?) i.e. the Messias. John the Baptist had already, on several occasions, declared that Jesus was the Messias. (John i). He could not then doubt of it himself, but sent his disciples to take away their doubt. (Witham) — St. John the Baptist sent his disciples not to satisfy his own doubts, but for the sake of his disciples, who, blinded by the love they bore their Master, and by some emulation, would not acknowledge Christ to be the Messias. (St. Chrysostom in Baradius) — This expression of St. John is much taken notice of, as conveying with it a very particular question. “Tell me, says St. John, now that I am departing out of this world, whether thou art coming to redeem the patriarchs and holy fathers; or wilt thou send another?” (St. Thomas Aquinas) — And St. Chrysostom also explains it thus, Art thou he that art to come to limbo? but the Baptist omitting this last word, sufficiently indicated to our Saviour what was the purport of this question. St. Jerome and St. Gregory say, that by his death, he was going to preach to the holy fathers that Christ, the Messias, was come. John does not here propose this question as ignorant of the real case, but in the same manner as Christ asked where Lazarus was laid. So John sends his disciples to Jesus, that seeing the signs and miracles he performed, they might believe in him. As long, therefore, as John remained with his disciples, he constantly exhorted them to follow Jesus; but now that he is going to leave them, he is more earnest for their belief in him. (St. Thomas Aquinas)


There is no way around it. There are two different ways to interpret who JB was, both with supporting evidence.

John could have been Jesus’ cousin, with Jesus joining the ministry when John was becoming popular.

Or…John did not know Jesus at all, with the opportunistic Jesus starting his own similar ministry after JB was arrested.


The question of who Jesus was turned on the concept of who the Messiah was to be. For many, he would be a philosopher-king like David. Others were looking for a warrior who would drive all the invaders out of Israel. Still others wanted a religious figure who would lead the nation to repentance.


Jesus and John could have been kinsmen without knowing one another. Despite lovely art images of the Infant Jesus playing with the Toddler John, it’s more likely they did not know one another than that they did.

After the Annunciation, Mary travels to the hill country to be with Elizabeth, so they’re not exactly next-door neighbors, or even closely related. And Elizabeth and Zechariah were old, the age of Mary’s parents if not her grandparents. John was doubtless orphaned very young (there is a theory that he might have been raised in the Essene community at Qumram), Jesus on the other hand grew up in Nazareth with two parents, at least until he was 12, and surrounded by assorted relatives. When Jesus showed up at the Jordan John’s response “Behold” is a response to the prompting of the Spirit, just as it was at the Visitation, not a recognition of his cousin . . .

To me the message from John in the dungeon has the plaintive tone of someone who literally bet his life on the certainty that Jesus WAS the Messiah, and now, rotting in Herod’s dungeon, was struggling with doubt. “If Messiah is supposed to free the captives, and I’m still here, what am I supposed to think?” And the message that Jesus sends him back is a confirmation - the signs are being fulfilled.



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