John the Baptist, Saint, d. c.A.D. 28–A.D. 30, Jewish prophet, considered by Christians to be the forerunner of Jesus. He was the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, who was also a kinswoman of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his birth was miraculously foretold. After spending some time in the desert, he received a divine call to preach repentance to the people of the Jordan valley in preparation for the Messiah. He baptized his followers, and he baptized Jesus, whom he believed to be the Son of God. John's vigorous preaching and great popularity enraged the aristocracy, and he offended Herodias, wife of Herod, by rebuking her publicly. At her instigation and at the direct request of her daughter Salome he was beheaded. (Mat. 11.1–19; 17.11–13; Mark 6.14–29; Luke 1.5–80; 3.1–20; John 1.15–36.) John is also mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus. Christians have long venerated St. John the Baptist; he is the only saint besides the Virgin Mary whose birthday is celebrated: June 24. The feast of his beheading is Aug. 29.
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