Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The birth (and death) of John the Baptist

We are all familiar with the account of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus in Luke's gospel. But there are two other sources for information about JB outside the New Testament. In an interesting extra-biblical account, Josephus, the first century historian reports the death of John the Baptist in Jewish Antiquities, 18. Today is the feast of the birth of John the Baptist celebrated six months before Dec 25th, the birthday of Jesus, according to tradition. Josephus' account of JB is much less problematic than his account of Jesus, the Testimonium Flavianum. John is probably known to the Mandaeans, according to an essay by Prof Jorunn Buckley of Bowdoin College, "Turning the Tables on Jesus" in Christian Origins, A People's History of Christianity ed. Richard Horsley (2006).

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