Gospel Reading Mark 1:1-1:8
The relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus Christ
Many biblical scholars believe that John the Baptist was related in some way to Jesus Christ through the Virgin Mary’s bloodline and the bloodline of Elizabeth, the wife of the High Priest Zacharias, John the Baptist’s mother. The Authorized King James Version of the Bible, Luke 1:36, translates the Greek word for this relationship as ‘cousin’ and the New King James Version, as well as the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version, all use either the word ‘relative’ or ‘kinswoman’ to describe the biological relationship between the Virgin Mary and Elizabeth.
All scriptural translations say that Elizabeth was a daughter of Aaron (Luke 1:5), which means that she was of the priestly bloodline of Aaron within the Levite Tribe which would make sense given she was married to the High Priest Zacharias. Since the Sacred Tradition of the Orthodox Church teaches that the Virgin Mary’s father, Joachim, was of the House of David from the Tribe of Judah; then, the blood relationship between the Virgin Mary and Elizabeth can be considered to be through the Virgin Mary’s mother, Anna. This would further mean that, Anna was also a daughter of Aaron as well and from the Priestly branch of the Levite tribe.
John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord by teaching about Him, preaching a message of repentance and performing a type of baptism for the forgiveness of sins of those who followed him. Some scholars believe John the Baptist may have been a Nazirite, which is a person who has made an extraordinary vow to sanctify himself as one of purity to the Lord (Numbers 6:2). This sanctification required an austere lifestyle and strict diet, together with ritualistic cleansing accompanied with an animal sacrifice for the atonement of sins. Because John the Baptist offered his followers a baptism that was different from the ritualistic Israelite custom for Nazirites, some scholars refute the idea that he was a Nazirite and support that he may have been an Essene instead. Essenes lived a communal lifestyle in voluntary poverty with strict diet and daily immersion. There were other religious groups similar to the Essenes as well. However, it is entirely likely that John the Baptist was not part of any of these groups since he did not live the communal lifestyle of the Essenes and remained alone in the wilderness except for times of spreading the word of the Lord and teaching his followers. The Baptism he offered was also different from all other ritualistic cleaning of the other Jewish sects. It was a baptism based on repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4) without the ancient Israelite practice of offering an animal sacrifice to the temple. John the Baptist also made it clear that his baptism was not complete; it was only temporary until the Lord’s Ministry on earth was complete at which time baptism for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting would be of water and the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15). So, John the Baptist really was more of a Nazirite as far as his personal dedication to the Lord goes, but not entirely a Nazirite by the ancient Israelite definition in that he preached a New Covenant and paved the way for the Lord in the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15). He ushered in the New Covenant between God and Mankind in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17) which was offered for the salvation of all mankind through our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. Glory be to God.