A Ein Karem spring that provides water to the village of Ein Karem stimulated settlement there from an early time. Archaeologists found pottery has been found nearby dating to the Middle Bronze Age. At the Israelite age it could be identified as the location of Beth HaKerem described in the book of Jeremiah 6:1 and in Nehemiah 3:14, where the traditional name comes from. Also in the village found a well-preserved mikveh, or Jewish ritual bath, the indicates there was a ancient Jewish village in the First Century with some other important discoveries of graves, bits of a wall, an olive press and more.


“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.”

Luke 1:39–56 KJV

The Birthplace of John the Baptist. To visit Elizabeth, Mary went “into the hill country [oreinē], to a city of Judah” (Lk 1:39). The Greek word describes the district around Jerusalem (Pliny Nat. Hist. 5.14). A literary tradition that can be traced back to the sixth century identifies the birthplace with En-Kerem (Arabic Ain Karim), seven kilometers west of Jerusalem (ELS 44ff.). Remains of two fourth-century churches indicate, however, that the tradition stretches back to a still-earlier time (GBL II.776). The identification of this site with the priestly city of Juttah (Josh 15:55; 21:16) ten kilometers south of Hebron is ruled out on philological grounds alone (see JOHN THE BAPTIST).


In the Greek OT menein, when used in a theological sense, most commonly speaks of the abiding character of God. In contrast to the transitory nature of all things human, God remains, he endures, he is immutable. In the NT period this was considered to be a trait of the Messiah also, as evidenced by the crowds in John’s Gospel who say, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ abides forever” (12:34). And John would have us know that Jesus is the Son who abides forever (8:35), who gives food that abides unto eternal life (6:27), and who enables one to produce fruit that abides (15:16).
In addition, in the first use of the verb in the Gospel, the Evangelist relates that John the Baptist (see JOHN THE BAPTIST) saw the Holy Spirit (see HOLY SPIRIT) coming down from heaven as a dove and remaining (emeinen) on Jesus (1:32). This was no momentary experience of the Spirit, perhaps like that of the judges or prophets, but an enduring reality in Jesus’ life.


“John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. 

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!”

(John 1:15–36 KJV)

Josephus and Mark 1:5; 11:32 agree that John was enormously popular. There is no compelling reason to question the Gospels’ tradition that John was active generally prior to Jesus’ ministry, though the exact chronological relationship of the two cannot be specified. Josephus relates that some Jews thought that Antipas’ execution of John had been avenged by God through the defeat of his army by Aretas IV, probably in 36 C.E. John’s death accordingly preceded this date and probably belongs in the latter half of Antipas’ reign.
Particularly in view of John’s popularity, the Christian tradition that Jesus was baptized by John (and that John was soon arrested thereafter) is open to historical question. It is not clear that Q described Jesus’ baptism by John. Jesus himself must nevertheless have at least heard about John and doubtless approved of him, perhaps even imitating him in some respects.

The exact contents and scope of John’s message are difficult to determine. Josephus presents John as someone who exhorts to virtue, righteousness among fellow Jews, and reverence toward God.

Given the general political and religious climate, there are likely to have been political overtones pertaining to the future of the Jewish people. Whether John used apocalyptic imagery (cf. Q) is uncertain. In any event, Christian tradition has moved John into a much more definite role as precursor of the Messiah and as Elijah.
John’s teaching regarding baptism doubtless involved some discussion of repentance, purity, and forgiveness. Josephus is at pains to deny that the baptism was for forgiveness of sins, while Mark affirms this. Both positions seem to be evolved from an original connection of repentance, baptism, purity, and forgiveness, witnessed also in the writings from Qumran. The controlling idea that forgiveness comes from God will not have been displaced.
The location of John’s activity outside Jerusalem, combined with baptism involving forgiveness, raises the question of to what degree John consciously challenged the Jerusalem priesthood. Increasing evidence for the prevalence of Jewish ritual ablutions renders less likely the thesis that a baptist movement must necessarily have stood in opposition to the temple cult.

“JOHN THE BAPTIST,” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, 728.

Mark, Q, and John agree in speaking of a special group of “disciples of John.” Remarkably, these writings witness to the continued existence of this distinct group throughout Jesus’ ministry. The kernel of this group undoubtedly goes back to the lifetime of John. A group of John’s adherents seems to have continued on to rival followers of Jesus even after John’s death. Out of the dialogue, Johannine elements such as fasting and baptism might have been introduced into the nascent Christian faith.

John’s disciples evidently believed John to be the Messiah (Recognitions 1.54.8; 1.60.1–2; John 1). After his execution, they seem to have thought John was hidden away by God to return soon (Mark 6:14, 16; 8:28; Recognitions 1.54.8). In all these aspects John’s movement appears to have established a pattern for the early followers of Jesus.

Bibliography. C. H. Kraeling, John the Baptist (New York, 1951); E. F. Lupieri, “John the Baptist in New Testament Traditions and History,” in ANRW II.26,1 (Berlin, 1993), 430–61; C. H. H. Scobie, John the Baptist (Philadelphia, 1964); R. L. Webb, John the Baptizer and Prophet. JSNTSup 62 (Sheffield, 1991); W. Wink, John the Baptist in the Gospel Tradition. SNTSMS 7 (London, 1968).

“JOHN THE BAPTIST,” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, 728.

Death of John the Baptist

The imprisonment of John the Baptist, which preceded the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean work, was continued for a time (Mt 11:2–19; Lk 7:18–35) but was finally terminated by beheading at the order of Herod Antipas. Announcement of the death was made to Jesus while in the midst of His Galilean ministry (Mt 14:3–12; Mk 6:14–29; Lk 9:7–9). Josephus reports that the defeat of Antipas by Aretas, in the summer of 789/36, was popularly regarded as a Divine punishment for the murder of John (Ant., XVIII, v, 2); But although Josephus mentions the divorce of Aretas daughter by Antipas as one of the causes of hostilities, no inference can be drawn from this or from the popular interpretation of Antipas’ defeat, by which the int erval between John’s death and this defeat can be fixed (Schurer, op. cit., I, 443 f).

“Chronology of the NT,” ISBE, n.p.