We read at Mk 1:4-5 (NRSVCE):

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

We read on at Mtt 3:13-15:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

Although the term "baptism" is not used to describe the Jewish rituals, the purification rites in Jewish law and tradition, called tvilah, have some similarity to baptism, and the two have been linked. The tvilah is the act of immersion in natural sourced water, called a mikva. In the Jewish Bible and other Jewish texts, immersion in water for ritual purification was established for restoration to a condition of "ritual purity" in specific circumstances. For example, Jews who (according to the Law of Moses) became ritually defiled by contact with a corpse had to use the mikvah before being allowed to participate in the Holy Temple. Immersion was also required for converts to Judaism (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Reverting to Jesus's statement to John that "it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness", one can conclude that John himself had received the Baptism of Repentance before he embarked on his mission of baptizing others. John`s humble submission that he ought to have been baptized by Jesus implies that Jesus did not baptize him . My question therefore is: According to Catholicism, by whom was John the Baptist was baptized?

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    Please learn to format your posts properly and use the appropriate tags. – curiousdannii Jan 11 at 5:18
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    There is no record in scripture of John's own baptism. Nor is there any reliable history outside of scripture. Such matters become the subject of legend, of false report and of sheer speculation. Thus this question can only ever be a matter of opinion. – Nigel J Jan 11 at 5:59
  • John the Baptist was the only person that was filled with the holy Spirit already from birth. Thus, he had a special anointing of the Lord. The bible says that he was the biggest spiritual hero ever walked on this earth. No one was bigger than him, except the smallest in the God-head: Jesus. It is, therefore, likely that John was the one to, on God's command, have introduced baptism. – Constantthin Jan 12 at 13:32

According to Catholicism, by whom was John the Baptist was baptized?

The Church teaches nothing on this matter. Nor is there even a tradition of the possibility that he was baptized.

To say otherwise is pure speculation!

Although SLM’s answer seems to allude to such a possibility, it is still speculation and no sources of concrete historical evidence exist that state that St. John the Baptist was indeed baptized.

Several holy fathers write that Elizabeth fled with her child into the desert, to conceal herself from the cruelties of king Herod; and that John was nourished and kept either by an angel or in some other manner by divine Providence. Others write that, in his third or at most in his fifth year, he had voluntarily gone into the desert, eager to serve God more perfectly and to prepare himself for his mission. No one ought to think this incredible; since, even before he was born, he was gifted with the use of his reason, and comprehended the great mission to which he was called by the Almighty. So much is certain that he was from his most tender years in the wilderness. The holy Evangelists and the holy fathers tell us what manner of life he led there. He subsisted on wild honey and locusts, which are used as food in the East; but he ate so little, that our Lord said of him, that he had neither taken food nor drink. His drink was water; his garments, a coat of camels'-hair, which was fastened round his loins by a leathern belt. The ground was his bed, and he employed day and night in prayer and meditation. By fasting and other austere penances, he prepared himself for his mission. St. Augustine remarks that the severe life of penance of John was the model after which the hermits regulated their lives; hence they acknowledge him as their founder.

When in his thirtieth year, St. John was admonished by God to leave the wilderness and commence his mission. Going to the river Jordan, he preached penance and baptized the penitents. This baptism was not that which Christ instituted in the course of time: neither had it the power which the baptism of Christ has; but was only a sign of penance. In the Gospel it is related how great a multitude of people came to St. John; what he preached; how he exhorted them to do penance: how he had the honor to baptize Christ Himself, and what occurred during this event. The splendid testimony is spoken of, which he gave at different times, to the effect that Christ was the true Messiah. It is also recorded what he answered to those who were sent to him to ask whether he was the promised Messiah; for, his life was so holy and wonderful, that many believed him to be the long promised Redeemer. The Nativity of St. John, the Baptist

  • "Nor is there even a tradition of the possibility that he was baptized." I can't find the source atm, but there is a tradition that the Visitation when John leapt at the presence of Christ was effectively his baptism (Which is why he and Mary are the only two birthdays besides Christ to be celebrated in the Church) – eques Jan 11 at 15:37
  • @eques I think I would have heard about it,if that were the case. – Ken Graham Jan 11 at 15:44
  • Absence of your personal knowledge is hardly conclusive. – eques Jan 11 at 15:53
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    See newadvent.org/cathen/08486b.htm for example which mentions that the leap was "as if to acknowledge the presence of the Lord" which accomplished "the prophetic words of the angel that the child should be 'filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15). Presence of any sin is incompatible with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so he must have been cleansed from sin. – eques Jan 11 at 16:01

Traditionally, it is understood that John the Baptist was free from original sin from his Mother's Womb:

and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. (Luke 1:15)

and his leaping for joy in Elizabeth's womb when Mary arrived is understood as the sign of the Holy Spirit indwelling within him. Being free from original sin from before birth removes any further need to be baptized. Incidentally, this is also why he and Mary are the only ones besides Christ to have birthdays celebrated in the liturgical year.

See St John the Baptist in the Catholic Encyclopedia for further information.

  • There is still no tradition of St. John the Baptist being baptized. Jesus was baptized by John and tradition holds that the Virgin Mary was also baptized! – Ken Graham Jan 11 at 16:13
  • Baptism can be understood either as the specific means or the effect resulting from it. John's own baptism doesn't confer the effect of Christ's baptism, so OP's supposition doesn't quite hold, but the OP was suggesting "one can conclude that John himself had received the Baptism of Repentance before he embarked on his mission of baptizing others" and the tradition is clear that the effects of baptism were present. The tradition of Mary's baptism is ancient indeed but Mary didn't need to be baptized anymore than Christ did, so it fits in the tradition of Mary's life paralleling Christ's – eques Jan 11 at 16:37
  • Jesus' words to John : "".. it is proper for us..." is proof enough that he meant that both himself and John fulfill `all righteousness ' by receiving the ceremony of Baptism. So, John might already have had his Baptism and Jesus only wanted to join the league. – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan Jan 12 at 4:53
  • @KadalikattJosephSibichan I'm not following your reasoning at all. What verse are you referencing with "it is proper for us..."? – eques Jan 12 at 13:24
  • Mtt 3:15 (NRSV) : But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. – Kadalikatt Joseph Sibichan Jan 13 at 9:11

Although not a strictly Catholic Church point of view, by making the OP association between baptism and tvilah, we can find an answer to the question who baptized John?

John the baptist's father was Zachariah. According to the bible, he was of the Levitical priestly tribe.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. Luke 1:5

The "course of Abia" was the eighth course of a number of 24 priests appointed to serve in the temple.

These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him. 1 Chron 24:19

Zachariah was in the temple when the angel announced he would have a son to be named John.

But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. Luke 1:13

A priest begins to serve at the age of thirty. He is washed.

Then bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water. Ex 29:4

Though we do not find an explicit reference that John had been washed/baptized for his Levitical service, it is implied like all other sons of Aaron who served.

Though some may say there's also no proof John served in the temple, the explanation would lie in the similarity to when Moses first consecrated Aaron into the priestly service, though Moses was not a priest per se. (Ex 29).

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