St. John the Baptist in Paintings

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The Evolution of John the Baptist in Christianity John the Baptist is one of a few recognized prophets in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. John lived by the Jordan River in Perea as an Essene Jew, around the time of Jesus’ ministry. Many know John as a non-divine apocalyptic preacher who claimed baptism would help one get into heaven, and it would be disadvantageous to ignore baptism. John is relevant to understanding historical Jesus not only because he baptized Jesus but because of their conflicting similarities. John and Jesus were both apocalyptic preachers, in the Essene Jewish sub-group, and popular during antiquity. Many scholars actually believe John was more popular in antiquity. Because of his greater popularity, many…show more content…
The first panel is of John’s execution and the second is John witnessing the birth of Christ with a lamb besides him. This painting is classified as a medieval painting because of the date it was painted; however, the painting contains symbolism ahead of its era. Scholar Kalan Curling Greenwood talks about this symbolism. He says the middle panel shows John acknowledges Jesus as being the Messiah by how he extends his right hand towards him (Greenwood 17). The second panel is John’s execution. Greenwood points out that John’s lifeless body claps his hands together symbolizing both his strict faith and martyrdom. Also, one can see God is watching down upon the scene. Despite being a medieval picture, Memling paints the baptism of Christ in the far background to represent the beginning of Jesus as a preacher (18). This use of the perception of depth allowed artist to include extra symbolism in their paintings and was famous in the Renaissance paintings. Renaissance Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child with Saint John and Angels (Figure 3) exemplifies Christian renaissance art. The painting goes further on a symbolic level. First, the painting does not just reconstruct a scene from the bible; it tells the urban legend of Jesus and John being cousins and growing up together. Next, the Michelangelo creates a livelier painting by portraying a hidden story through symbolism. Scholar Hutan Ashrafian dives into this hidden story by analyzing the
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