John the baptist died at what age (Matthew 14, Mark 6)? I have tried to research with no possible conclusion Kindly assist

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According to Luke 1:26, John was conceived 6 months before Jesus, so Jesus and John were about the same age. And according to Luke 3:23, Jesus was about 30 years old after his baptism. Since presumably John was imprisoned after Jesus' baptism, that would make him about 30 or older when he was imprisoned and killed. And since he died before Jesus, he would have been younger than Jesus' age at death. Modern estimates of Jesus' age at death are from 34-42 (see Chronology of Jesus); assuming Luke's idea of his age wasn't far from that, Luke's version would have John older than about 30 and younger than 42 when he died.


TL;DR = About 31 years 6 to 8 months old.

In Luke 1 we learn that Mary Jesus' mother visited Elizabeth John's mother (and Mary's cousin) when Elizabeth was between 5 and 6 months along in her pregnancy. Mary was also pregnant at that time and the unborn baby John "leaped" in the womb when Mary arrived. Mary stayed 3 months and departed just before John was born. This places John and Jesus close to 6 months apart in age with John older.

Luke 3 tells us that Jesus was "about thirty years old" when he was baptized by John. (Side note, John was a priest, being the son of a priest, and priests entered service at age 25 [Numbers 8:24, Ezra 3:8] but the first 5 years of service are under guidance, like an apprenticeship [Numbers 4:3]. So John became a fully practicing priest at age 30. This is likely why Jesus was not baptized by him until that time.)

John's gospel says the wedding at Cana was on "the third day" (the first day being when the Pharisees challenge John at the river and the second day being when Jesus was actually baptized). Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness after fasting for 40 days, but John does not. This implies the time in the wilderness followed the wedding at Cana. The next major feast mentioned that required travel to Jerusalem is Passover, in John's gospel. On that trip to Jerusalem is when Nicodemus visits Jesus.

All this places Jesus' baptism, and therefore his approximate thirtieth birthday, a minimum of something like two months before Passover. This means that John was 30 years 8 to 9 months old, possibly a little older, at Passover that year.

This very detailed chronology claims that the Messenger visited Zakarya in the Temple during Sukkot, placing his conception in early October and his birthday sometime in July. Without making a judgement whether the exact date is calculated correctly in this chronology, the "whole multitude" being gathered outside the Temple (Luke 1:10) does point to John being conceived after Zakarya returned home after service in the Temple at one of the Great Feasts (Passover, Pentecost, Sukkot).

If John was conceived after Sukkot and born in mid-summer, that would indicate that he began baptizing in the river Jordan pretty much immediately after turning 30 years old and becoming a full-fledged priest. And that Yeshua came to be baptized very quickly after turning 30 himself. Let us make this plausible assumption in order to estimate the time of year of Jesus' baptism. It seems to have been after Hannukah and before Purim.

Jesus was crucified on the third Passover after Jesus was baptized by John. The Gospel of John documents three distinct Passover feasts between the baptism and crucifixion and clearly states in chapter 3 that John the Baptist had not yet been arrested after Jesus returned to Galilee from Passover, the first Passover after being baptized in the Jordan. (John 3:23-24)

The subsequent narrative in John has Jesus traveling after this:

  • To the Judean countryside baptizing
  • Back to Galilee via Samaria
  • Within Galilee, at Cana and Capernaum (Luke and Matthew say he visited many villages)
  • (Matthew 13 specifically mentions returning to his home town Nazareth during this time, but performing no miracles there in contrast to other places)
  • Back to Jerusalem for "one of the feasts" (probably Purim because John's gospel tends to name all the Great Feasts in his narrative)
  • Back to the Sea of Galilee and the feeding of five thousand - John says Passover "was near" at that time - we can suppose perhaps two weeks away given the travel time necessary to reach Jerusalem from Bethsaida

The last we hear from John's disciples is related in Luke 7:18-23 when they were sent by John, who by this time was arrested, to ask, "Do we look for another?" (Side note, this is not to be interpreted as doubt. Instead, John was asking whether there was to be one or two Messiahs. This question continues even into modern times in mainstream Judaism.)

Between this event and the feeding of five thousand, Luke does not call attention to feast days, but he does describe Jesus travelling to "one town and village after another" (Luke 8:1) in Galilee, including taking a boat across the Sea of Galilee (Luke 8:26) and back again (Luke 8:40). This was all before he sent out the Twelve. And the Twelve went "from village to village" (Luke 9:6).

All of this travel and activity, by Jesus with his disciples, and then with the Twelve travelling around Galilee in six pairs, must have consumed a number of months.

Matthew 11:1-2 confirms that after Jesus sent out the Twelve, John sends his disciples from prison to ask their questions. This narrows the timeline somewhat because Jesus sent out the Twelve only after returning to Galilee when he started to openly perform many miracles. This would be before Purim that year. This also implies that John was arrested at approximately the same time Jesus returned to Galilee.

Matthew 14:12-15 implies that John was beheaded shortly before the feeding of five thousand. "John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus." Jesus withdraws to be alone in response to the news, but the crowds follow, and the feeding of five thousand is a direct result.

Back to Luke now. Luke 9 describes the feeding of five thousand occurring at Bethsaida but does not mention news of John's execution reaching Jesus. Luke says this was just after Jesus had sent out the Twelve and they had returned. This phase of the ministry generated a lot of discussion in Galilee, prompting Herod to ask, "I beheaded John, so who is this I keep hearing about?" (Luke 9:9)

All of this together allows us to arrive at a fairly narrow estimate of when John was executed. Combine with the gospel narratives the report of Josephus that John was imprisoned, and therefore presumably executed, at Machaerus which is on the east shore of the Dead Sea.

  • Jesus had at least enough time to reach Jerusalem for Passover, several days' journey, after the feeding of five thousand. But Passover "was near" then. Purim would have already passed.
  • The feeding of five thousand is prompted by the arrival of news of John's execution at Machaerus. John's disciples first buried the body. This implies not only that some of John's disciples were visiting him at Machaerus, so that they could take possession of the body and bury it quickly, but also that those disciples then traveled from Machaerus up to Bethsaida to deliver the news (presumably having to search a bit after Jesus). Again, several days' journey, but presumably with no unnecessary delays after the execution itself.
  • The order to execute John could have been relayed relatively quickly but the head was brought back and delivered into Salome's possession (perhaps by a courier on horseback) in time for Herod to be perplexed upon hearing of miracles being performed in his kingdom. This would again be several days after the execution.

All considered, we might tentatively guess that John was beheaded roughly three weeks before Passover, the second Passover after baptizing Jesus in the Jordan. This guess seems to be consistent with the gospel narratives and Josephus, and considerations of travel time for the events to have happened as reported.

This would make John about 31 years 6 to 8 months old at the time of his death (depending on whether there was a Be'Adar month that year).

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