Framing John the Baptist

The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist, Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1499

The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist, Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1499

Today’s Lenten devotional by N.T. Wright (Week 2, Wednesday), focusing on Matthew 11:1-19, explores the character and mission of John the Baptist, and the love of our Lord.

Two Gospel writers (Matthew and Luke) relate the account of John the Baptist sending his followers to ask Jesus if He was indeed the true Messiah. So John had doubts when the heat was on. Got it—he was human.

In response, Jesus cited His miracles as proof of His messianic authority. (You can’t get away from the purpose of miracles in the Bible.) But Jesus went further than merely answering the question—he set John the Baptist apart as the greatest man born of women. He recognized John’s doubt, addressed it, and restored John’s reputation. That grace in the face of doubt reveals how much God really loves us.

But left to the three synoptic Gospel writers, we would have an incomplete picture of John the Baptist. The apostle John, writing much later than the other Gospel writers, is filling in details that do not appear in the first three Gospels. Approximately 92% of the content of the Gospel of John is unique, and those later details help complete the portrait of John the Baptist.

So much of the Bible is told from different perspectives, often by different writers describing the same people, events, or circumstances. It takes the whole breadth of Scripture to get a complete picture. The repetition is not contradiction, it’s completion. And so it is with the apostle John—his love for details to fill in the gaps completes much of the history of the New Testament.

Here’s a video that demonstrates using the Glo Bible to explore John the Baptist in the Gospel of John. It shows some of the historical sites associated with John the Baptist, including the most plausible site for Bethany Beyond the Jordan (where Jesus was baptized by John), Machaerus (where John the Baptist was beheaded), and evidence recently discovered by credible archaeologists suggesting that John performed baptisms in this particular cave.



  1. Excellent navigation through the archaeological evidence supporting John the Baptist.

    There are no serious, skeptical scholars who would question the historicity of John the Baptist. So for those who have some doubts about the veracity of the New Testament, folks should take a good look at the video John Paine has put together.

    Bravo and thanks!

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