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Biblical People
John, KJV 3 times Jonas, once Jona. [Gr. Ioµanneµs, probably from the Heb. Yochanan, or Yehochanan, "Yahweh is gracious"; variant reading Ioµnas, "Jonah," on which the KJV renderings "Jonas" and "Jona" are based.]

1. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ and son of Zechariah (KJV "Zacharias"), a priest of the course of "Abia," and Elizabeth (Lk 1:5). It was while Zacharias was performing his priestly function of burning incense in the Temple that Gabriel informed him of the birth of the child and instructed him to call his name John and to bring him up as a Nazirite. The angel predicted that the child would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb, and would go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (vs. 8-17). Remembering his own and his wife's advanced age, Zacharias expressed doubt at the word of the angel, and because of his unbelief was struck dumb (vs. 18-22). In due course the child was born, and 8 days later was circumcised. The neighbours and relatives assumed that the child would be called Zacharias. However, Elizabeth, following the directions of the angel (v 13), insisted upon the name John. When Zacharias was consulted by means of signs, he wrote upon a tablet that the name should be John. At that very moment, his speech was restored. These strange happenings astonished the people of the area, so that all wondered what kind of child John would be (vs. 57-66). John's father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied that his son would be called "the prophet of the Highest" for he would "go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways" (vs. 67-79).

John grew up in the wilderness, where he remained until his ministry began (Lk 1:80). This wilderness was probably the "wilderness of Judaea" mentioned in Mt 3:1, a region of barren hills between the Dead Sea and the highest parts of the central mountain range of Palestine . The Bible offers no information concerning the early life and training of John beyond stating that "the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel" (Lk 1:80).

John was a cousin of Jesus, and was about 6 months older than He (Lk 1:36), hence probably began his ministry 6 months before Jesus, also about the age of 30. This was the age at which Jews regarded a man as having reached his full maturity and as being therefore eligible for the responsibilities of public life (cf. ch 3:23).

John was apparently a rugged man in both character and appearance. He did not hesitate to speak cutting truth when it was necessary (Mt 3:7-11; Lk 3:7-9). He was a man of austere, indeed what might even appear to be almost unsociable, habits (Mt 11:19; Lk 7:33), who ate the simplest foods, foods locusts and "wild honey" (Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6). His clothing was a garment woven of camel's hair, and a leather girdle about his waist (Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6; cf. Mt 11:8).

All of John's preaching, it would seem, was done in the "wilderness of Judaea" (Mt 3:1). Luke states that he laboured in the country about Jordan, and that his preaching in desert areas was in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah that he would preach in the wilderness (Lk 3:3, 4). One reason for his preaching near the Jordan was doubtless the suitability of the river for baptisms (cf. Jn 3:23). The power of his message is attested by the fact that crowds streamed out of the cities and from the countryside around to hear him and to be baptised of him (Mt 3:5,6; Mt 1:4, 5; Lk 3:7). Not only did his preaching bear fruit among the Jews and of Judea (see Jos. Ant. xviii. 5.2., 2), but the effects of his message spread to areas outside Palestine (Acts 18:25; Acts 19:3).

The peak, and the beginning of the decline, of John's ministry was reached on the day he baptised Jesus (Jn 1:33). When Jesus came to the Baptist requesting immersion, John demurred, stating that he himself needed to be baptised by Jesus, but Jesus requested him to perform the ceremony, "for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Mt 3:13-15). After the baptism, John saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending upon Jesus, and heard a voice from heaven attesting that Jesus was the Son of God (Mt 3:16, 17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21, 22; Jn 1:30-34). "The next day" John pointed out Christ to those around him as the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29). Later, when he repeated his statement 2 of his disciples who heard his words began to follow Jesus (vs. 36-42), symbols of the shift of the multitudes away from John to the new and greater Teacher (ch 3:26).

At no time was John's greatness more apparent than when some of his disciples came to him with the message that all men were going after Jesus. His answer was one of complete self-abnegation, and self-surrender to the will of God: "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.… He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:25-36).

Some months, perhaps a year or more, after the baptism of Jesus, John was imprisoned by Herod Antipas, whom he had fearlessly reproved for abandoning his wife in order to marry his niece Herodias, who was already the wife of his half brother, Herod Philip (Mt 14:3, 4; Lk 3:19, 20).

Some time after his incarceration John sent 2 of his disciples to Jesus to inquire whether or not He was the Messiah. Jesus told the disciples to tell John of the things they had seen and heard; how the sick were healed, the dead were raised to life, and the gospel was preached to the poor (Mt 11:2-6; Lk 7:18-23) After their departure, Jesus delivered a wonderful eulogy concerning John; John was not wavering and irresolute, as a reed bent in whatever direction the wind blows; he was not a man of courtly dress and manners, but he was a prophet, and much more than a prophet, to whom had been given the great task of heralding the Messiah (Mt 11:7-18; Lk 7:24-35).

Perhaps some 6 months after this event even John was beheaded. His death was brought about through the scheming of Herodias, who hated John for his reproval of Herod's actions concerning her (Mk 6:19). On the occasion of one of Herod's birthdays, when he was entertaining some important guests, Salome, the daughter of Herodias by Herod Philip, danced before them. Her performance so pleased Herod that he offered to give her whatever she asked, even to half of his kingdom. Salome consulted her mother, who directed her to request the head of John. This greatly upset Herod, for he had respect for, and fear of, John. However, he felt he could not withdraw his promise; so he gave orders that the prophet be beheaded. This command was performed, and the Baptist's head was delivered to Herodias' daughter on a platter (Mt 14:3, 6-11; Mk 6:19-28). John's body was buried by his disciples (Mt 14:12; Mk 6:29). When later Herod heard of Jesus and His marvellous works, he thought of that Jesus was John, risen from the dead (Mt 14:1, 2; Mk 6:14, 16; Lk 9:7). According to Josephus, John's imprisonment and death occurred in the fortress of Machaerus in Perea, east of the Dead Sea (Jos. Ant. xviii. 5. 2).

The Dead Sea scrolls, discovered since 1947, and the excavations at Qumran reveal several close parallels between the Qumran sect and John the Baptist with regard to customs and teachings. Like John, the members of the Qumram community, probably Essenes, lived in the desert of Judah and denied themselves most of the comforts of life. They believed in a separation from the world and in a life of self-denial in order to "clear the way of the Lord" quoting, as did John, Is 40:3 (1 QS viii. 13-16; cf. Mt 3:3). They practised ritual washings in tanks, in rivers, and in the sea, and novices seem to have had to submit to a kind of baptism. Their beliefs, as contained in their books, with regard to their expectation of the Messiah and other teachings also show parallels to those of John. These parallels have led some to suggest that before his public ministry, John may have been a member of the Qumran community, and as such had shared many of their convictions and ideals, but that he had broken with them and their world-removed life when God called him to a public work that would prepare the way for Jesus' ministry (see W. H. Brownlee, in The Scrolls and the New Testament [New York, Harper, 1957], pp. 33-35).

2. The father of Simon Peter (Jn 1:42; Jn 21:15-17; RSV; KJV "Jona" and "Jonas").

3. John, a son of Zebedee, and apparently Salome, and brother of James (Mt 4:21; 27:56; cf. Mk 15:40; 16:1; Jn 19:25; Acts 12:1, 2). The fact that James is usually mentioned first when the names of the 2 disciples appear together implies that John was the younger of the two. Zebedee and his 2 sons were fishermen by trade, and apparently reasonably prosperous (Mk 1:19, 20). John apparently enters the Gospel narrative in Jn 1:35-40 as an unnamed disciple, among the throng listening to John the Baptist by the river Jordan. In that case he and Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, were the first of John the Baptist's disciples to follow Jesus. John apparently returned with Jesus to Galilee a few days later and attended the wedding festivities at Cana (ch 2:1-11). John was with Jesus intermittently during the next year, the period of His Judean ministry, but also evidently devoted part of his time to the fishing business; but as Jesus began His Galilean ministry, He invited John and his brother, and Peter and Andrew as well, to become permanent disciples (Lk 5:1-11). Some months later, John was among the 12 chosen to be apostles (Mt 10:2). Henceforth, John was intimately associated with Jesus in His labours. With Peter and James, John was a member of Jesus' inner circle of associates. He witnessed the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mk 5:37), and was present at the Transfiguration (ch 9:2) and again at Gethsemane (ch 14:33). John gave evidence of an impetuous disposition upon various occasions, as when he rebuked someone who laboured in Christ's name but had not formally become a disciple (Lk 9:49), and when he proposed to call fire down from heaven on the inhabitants of a Samaritan village who had refused Christ the privilege of sleeping in their village (vs. 52-56). He revealed selfishness upon the occasion when he with his brother sought places of honour beside Jesus in His future kingdom, but also demonstrated zeal and loyalty by declaring himself ready to face death with his Master (Mt 20:20-24; Mk 10:35-41).

During his association with Jesus, John seems to have yielded himself fully to the softening, subduing influence of the Saviour, with the result that his character was transformed. Apparently, he entered into a fellowship with Jesus deeper and richer than that of the other apostles (see Jn 21:20). At the Last Supper, he occupied the place next to Jesus (ch 13:23). When Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, John followed Him into the palace of the high priest, where he seems to have been known, and later to Calvary (chs 18:15; 19:26). At the cross, Jesus entrusted His mother Mary to the loving care of John (ch 19:27). Early Sunday morning, upon hearing the report that Jesus' tomb was empty, John and Peter ran together to the sepulchre to investigate, and became witnesses of the fact that Jesus had indeed risen (ch 20:1-10). John was present the evening of the day of the resurrection, when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room, and also a week later (Lk 24:33-43; Jn 20:19-30; 1 Cor 15:5). He was one of a group of disciples who had gone fishing, to whom Jesus appeared on the shores of Galilee (Jn 21:1-7).

After the ascension, John remained with the other 10 apostles in the upper room at Jerusalem (Acts 1:13), and subsequently joined with Peter in missionary labour in the city of Jerusalem (ch 3:1). Despite imprisonment, both apostles witnessed boldly to their faith in Jesus (ch 4:19). Later Peter and John went to Samaria to assist Philip (ch 8:14). John was possibly among the "apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem" for a number of years (see Acts 16:4; Gal 2:9). Tradition, supported by the implication in Rev 1:11, suggests that during the later years of his life, John was in charge of the churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor, with headquarters at Ephesus. From there, he was banished by Domitian to the island of Patmos (v 9) but is thought to have been released when Nerva became emperor in a.d. 96 . According to tradition, Polycarp, Papias, and Ignatius were pupils of John. Following his release, according to tradition, John resided at Ephesus, and died during the reign of Trajan, a.d. 98-117. Toward the close of his life, John wrote the book of Revelation and also the Gospel and the 3 epistles that bear his name.

4. John Mark (mark), author of the 2nd Gospel, according to the consistent and unanimous witness of early Christian tradition. He is called Marcus (Markus) 3 times in the KJV (Col 4:10; Phm 24; 1 Pe 5:13). John Mark was apparently a citizen of Jerusalem, for his mother, Mary, had her home in that city, which home was evidently used as a gathering place for the Christians (Acts 12:12). It has been conjectured that the "upper room" where Jesus held the Passover with His disciples, and where the believers later met to await the Holy Spirit, was in John Mark's home (Mt 26:18; Mk 14:15; Lk 22:12; Acts 1:13). Because no mention is made of his father, it is assumed that he was dead, John Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10, RSV). It has been conjectured that the young man "having a linen cloth cast about his naked body" during the arrest of Jesus was John Mark (Mk 14:51). However, this cannot be proved. Because Peter calls him his "son" in 1 Pe 5:13, some suggest that Mark was a convert of that apostle.

John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Antioch upon their return from Jerusalem, where they had delivered a contribution to the needy church (Acts 11:28-30; 12:25). He subsequently accompanied them as their "minister," on their 1st Missionary Journey (ch 13:5). This journey took them to the island of Cyprus, where they preached the gospel in the Jewish synagogues. Following their experience at Paphos with the sorcerer, Bar-Jesus, and Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul (vs. 6-12), the 3 set sail for Perga, a city on the mainland of Asia Minor, in a north-westerly direction from Paphos. At that city John Mark, overcome by the difficulties and hardships already encountered, and anticipating still greater ones, left the other men and returned to his home in Jerusalem (v 13). When Paul and Barnabas planned a 2nd Missionary Journey, Barnabas insisted that John Mark accompany them, but Paul would not agree, feeling that, because Mark had forsaken them previously, he could not be depended upon (ch 15:36-38). The result of this difference of opinion was Paul and Barnabas separated. Barnabas took John Mark and went to the island of Cyprus (v 39).

John Mark does not appear again in the Biblical narrative until he is mentioned by Paul in his letter to the church at Colossae and his letter to Philemon, written during his 1st imprisonment at Rome. In these, he calls Mark his "fellowprisoner" and "fellowlabourer" (Col 4:10; Phm 24). During his 2nd imprisonment, Paul again mentions Mark. Writing to Timothy, the apostle says: "Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry" (2 Ti 4:11). These words show that Mark had vindicated himself before Paul, and had proved himself to be a worthy minister of the gospel.

According to tradition, John Mark later went to Egypt and founded the church at Alexandria, becoming its presiding elder, and was martyred in that country during the Neronian persecutions. Tradition also indicates that, in his Gospel, he served as an interpreter for Peter. Papias of Hierapolis, writing c. a.d. 140, recorded a tradition of John the presbyter that "‘Mark became Peter's interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had he followed him but later on, as I said, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord's oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them'" (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. iii. 39. 15).

5. A Jewish leader who participated in the prosecution of Peter and John after their healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple (Acts 4:6) -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.

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