John the Baptist
John the Baptist was born around the same time period as Jesus is revered in Christianity as the forerunner of Jesus. His mother Elizabeth was said to be a relative of Mary and his father the priest Zechariah. There is a strong resemblance between John the Baptist and Jesus. Their fathers were both informed of their births by an angel, they began missionary work at a similar age and they were both executed by Romans.
From a young age John lived in the Judean desert either as a hermit or as part of a Jewish monastic community called the Essenes. It is said that he resembled the prophet Elijah and he “wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.”
He attracted a lot of attention in 29 C.E. as a prophet in the Jordan Valley, when he preached the imminent wrathful judgment of God and announced the coming of the Messiah and called on his congregation to repent and be baptized. John’s ministry centered on a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” Mark 1:4
John baptized hundreds of believers in the Jordan River and this is where he also baptized Jesus. While early icons portray Jesus standing waist-deep in the Jordan with John pouring water over him, his baptism was probably by immersion. As Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came on him and a voice declared that he was the Son of God.
John was imprisoned for criticizing the illegal marriage of Herod Antipas and was executed after Herod’s stepdaughter Salome demanded his head as a reward for dancing for the king’s guests.