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John 1
30 This is He of whom I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water” was that He might be revealed to Israel.

Both their births having been a marvel not only to their parents but to the people of the day, I would imagine that John himself heard the extraordinary circumstances of Messiah's birth in having no precedence to it, atleast from his mother and her cousin Mary, his aunt also, since family ties back then were robust, and even more so because of what Angel Gabriel said to Mary about Messiah concerning the whole nation of Israel.

Why does John then say the things he says in John 1:30-31?

  • The same way the apostles believed that Christ was the messiah but did not have absolute conviction until after his death, except that John the Baptist is different because his faith was stronger prior to his death. – Gigi Sanchez Feb 22 '17 at 15:47
  • John isn't answering from a standpoint of doubt, but of not knowing who Messiah was, at all. Which fact, as I highlighted, I found inconsistent with the angelic testimonies concerning both of them, and which he had to know as they were from his own mother, and another from his own father, yet another from his aunt Mary, Messiah's mother. – Ted O Feb 22 '17 at 22:55
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John does not mean that he didn't know anything at all about Jesus, but rather that he was not close friends with him. This is explained in the 4th century commentary on this passage by John Chrysostom:

Here he renders his testimony free from suspicion, by showing that it was not from human friendship, but had been caused by divine revelation. “I knew Him not,” he saith. How then couldest thou be a trustworthy witness? How shalt thou teach others, while thou thyself art ignorant? He did not say “I know Him not,” but, “I knew Him not”; so that in this way he would be shown most trustworthy; for why should he have shown favor to one of whom he was ignorant?

Homily XVII on the Gospel According to St. John

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  • Rightly observed, +1. Still concerning the unique testimony from Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah about the unequivocably extraordinary birth's of the 2 cousins, I don't see how John could have been in the dark about. So I still hope to see another view that factors in these aspects, in addition to a few that you cited. – Ted O Feb 22 '17 at 22:48

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