Jesus & John The Baptist Were Relatives

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Annunciation—Henry Ossawa Tanne, 1898
                                                      Annunciation—Henry Ossawa Tanne, 1898

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be, Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her. At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,  where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!’” Luke 1:26-42 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.” Matthew 2:1

Ein Karem—Church of the Nativity of St John the Baptist
                                           Ein Karem—Church of the Nativity of St John the Baptist

Herod ruled Judea from 37 BC-4 BC, so the two Biblical boys were born sometime before Herod’s death in 4 BC. There is no zero in calculation of time, no 0 BC or 0 AD. Calculations of events after 1 BC start at 1 AD (Anno Domini—In the Year of the Lord). John the Baptist and Jesus were born sometime between 6-4 BC (Before Christ).

CLICK HERE for article on The Baptist’s birthplace, Ein Karem

The Visitation—Fra Angelico, 1395-1455
                              The Visitation (Mary’s visit to Elizabeth)—Fra Angelico, 1395-1455

We learn from Luke that after the angelic Annunciation to Mary of Jesus’ birth and when Mary was apprised that “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age” (Luke 1:36), “Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea.” (Luke 1:39)  Luke says that Elizabeth was six months pregnant (Luke 1:26) when Mary came to her home in the small village now known as Ein Karem. Elizabeth’s intrauterine son John the Baptist, the Forerunner of Jesus in age and in ministry, “leaped in her womb” when pregnant Mary greeted his mother. (Luke 1:41)

Mary And Elizabeth With Jesus And John the Baptist— Johann Fredrich Overbeck, 1825
           Mary And Elizabeth With Jesus And John the Baptist— Johann Fredrich Overbeck, 1825

Many have speculated over the centuries about the kinship of Mary and Elizabeth. In the Greek in Luke 1:36, Elizabeth is Mary’s “suggenes.” The meaning of that Greek word can be “cousin, kinfolk, relative” or any relationship that implies blood lines. The KJV and the Douay-Rheims Bibles translate the word as “cousin” and the NIV translates it as “relative.” Elizabeth and Mary were relatives/cousins but Elizabeth, who was post-menopausal, was probably more than 30 years older than Mary who was in her teens, so they were likely not first cousins. John the Baptist was three months older than his relative Jesus.

Journey to Bethlehem—Joseph Brickey (born 1973)
                                                   Journey to Bethlehem—Joseph Brickey (born 1973)

However, the fact that Elizabeth lived in Judea near Jerusalem and that Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem about four miles from Jerusalem to enroll in a Roman census does indicate that Mary’s, Elizabeth’s and Joseph’s families all came originally from that small area of Israel. We know from Luke that Joseph’s family was from that area: “So Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Luke 2:4,5

A Herod Antipas coin, c. 30 AD minted at Tiberias
              A Herod Antipas coin, c. 30 AD minted at Tiberias

John the Baptist was born under Herod the Great and raised for 10 years under his son Archelaus after which a series of Roman prefects (e.g. Coponius,  Rufus, Gratus) ruled Judea until a more permanent Procurator, Pontius Pilate, was appointed in 26 AD when John was about 30 years old. Herod Antipas, another of Herod the Great’s sons, ruled the Galilee when Jesus was growing up in Nazareth. John’s adult ministry took him into the Galilee area where he would have a fatal encounter with that Antipas. (Matthew 14:1-12) Judean John and his Galilean cousin Jesus were surrounded by Herods and Romans all of their lives.Sandra Sweeny Silver

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