The Bible mentions about three people who were dedicated by their parents to be Nazirites already from birth. These people were Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. Jesus said:

Mat 11:11 (NIV) "Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist".

Does this imply that Samson and Samuel were somehow 'not as great' as John the Baptist? Is there a specific reason why Jesus did not mention either Samuel or Samson here?

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    Jesus didn't say John the Baptist was greater than Samuel or Sampson, but that none were greater than he. "not greater" is mathematically/logically equivalent to "less then or equal to".
    – enegue
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 12:59
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    @ Constantin: Jesus did not say that,the substance of the verse is lost unless it is taken in completeness. Jesus is saying that John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom, since a lesser in the Kingdom is greater that John.Jesus made the covenant with his faithful apostles on the night of 14 Nissan 33 C.E. Luke 22:28-30 , John died before the covenant was inaugurated on the day of the Pentecost, when he anointed about 120 of his followers with holy spirit. Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 17:25
  • When Eve added, "neither shall ye touch it" to the instruction regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, where did that idea come from? I suspect it came from Adam who thought it might help reinforce God's command in the mind of his wife. However, having picked (touched) the fruit without consequence compelled Eve to esteem the Serpent's words above God's. Luke's perspective on Jesus' words is helpful in regard to not missing Jesus' point about greatness (Luke 7:28).
    – enegue
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 23:15
  • Jesus' words are what matter, not mine. Read the narrative given by Luke and you will see that the "publicans" who were baptised by John, regarded him as great, but the "Pharisees and lawyers" rejected God's counsel, and were/did not. Jesus was pointing out that the Pharisees and lawyers had missed the mark in regard to who they considered to be great. We should be careful not to do the same.
    – enegue
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 0:27
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    I voted to close this question as opinion-based. I would be happy to reverse my vote if the question were re-phrased as "Does the expression attributed to Jesus in Mat 11:11 mean that Jesus said that John the Baptist was actually greater in some sense than Samson and Samuel, or is the expression colloquial Aramaic hyperbole that does not intend to actually rank." Another question that needs to be answered is in what sense "great" is used in this verse.
    – user17080
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 5:55

2 Answers 2


It’s interesting to me that you say

And, if so, please, explain why they were as great as John the Baptizer

As though you are anticipating the answer to be yes? Of Samuel and of Samson it is not said as of John the Baptizer

“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In Samson’s case he lost his strength at one point but even so his strength was not always present with him. There is a certain phrase that keeps occurring with regards to his strength which seems to indicate that Samson was not continually under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord.

“And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily” ‭‭Judges‬ ‭15:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

As for Samuel, he receives his calling as a boy, maybe that means less than 13 and his children did not follow in his footsteps. While he is not responsible for his children’s actions it points out that Samuel did have a family. So he did have some cares of this world and providing for his family.

But John the Baptizer was filled with the Spirit from the womb. So much so it affected his mother when the Spirit moved him.

“When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:41‬ ‭NASB.

It doesn’t say of John that he ever had a family but rather he seems to have committed himself fully to God and his prophetic ministry, not worried for his clothing nor even what he should eat.

“Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭3:4‬ ‭NASB‬‬

He didn’t seem to have any concern for the here and now.

“And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Jesus identifies John with Elijah who was to come.

I know of no other man in scripture who was called from his mother’s womb and filled with the Spirit prior to birth. But further when he is of age and able to decide for himself forsakes even living in a house but dedicated himself completely to God.

Samson and Samuel are not on par with John the Baptizer. He was in a separate league entirely.

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    +1. Your answer is good because it covers, more or less, everything there is to say about John the Baptist in this matter; and it's length is neither too short, nor too long. Good work. Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 5:32

The way that I've come to interpret this - is that John the Baptist is basically the "Levite Priest" of Jesus Christ. That's why he's the greatest person to come so far. But if you know the Kingdom of Heaven/Jesus, you can become higher than John. Think about this carefully. None of the people before John was able to "serve" Christ, like John did.

Luke chapter one reveals that John's father is Zechariah - Zechariah is a levite priest of the Abijah priestly division. The Abijah family is listed in 1 Chronicles 24:10.

Zechariah offers incense to the altar of God directly within the Second Temple in Luke 1. The incense altar is indeed where the Angel shows up to tell Zechariah that John is going to be born.

So, YHWH of the Old Testament is the old version of God. For one reason or another, God wanted to be served incense as an offering in the Old Testament. With the new incarnation of Jesus, God wants a mikveh/water immersion offering instead of an incense offering. New God means new offering. Which is what John supplies to Jesus. To put this into perspective, John is to Jesus - as the the High Priest is to YHWH. I hope I'm making this clear. It is very weird, but cool.

Concerning the Nazarite vow, I don't consider Samuel and John to be nazarites. Their vows are indeed very similar to the nazarite vow, but the issue is, is that they're not called nazarites. My belief is that Samson is the one who gives the most context to the Nazarite vow. He's called a nazarite repeatedly in the text. Samuel and John are never called nazarites by the text, but their vows are similar to it.

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