John the Baptist - Bible study ideas

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John the Baptiser: water falling onto hands

John's story

Scroll of the Bible

Bible text for this story

The fortress of Machaerus, where John the Baptist was beheaded

where John died

Pink rose opened fully

John's mother Elizabeth

Reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem built by Herod the Great

The Temple of Jerusalem






Bible text
for the story of
John the Baptist



Activities for individuals or groups

Movies about 'Prophets'

Can you name the movies?

Can you see a connection with John's story? 

'Silkwood', a woman investigating sloppy safety measures at a plutonium plant

'The Gospel according to St Matthew, Pasolini

'Erin Brockovich', a woman fighting the cover-up of contaminated water'Amazing Grace'- William Wilberforce's fight against slavery in England'Veronica Guerin': an Irish journalist fights drug dealers

Answers HERE (see 'John the Baptist') 

Can you think of others?

'Prophets' in modern-day films

Stage 1:  Make up a list
List some films about people like John the Baptist. You can choose recent films or classics. If this is a group activity, choose films most people know. 

Stage 2:  Glance over your list'Noah' as the Flood overwhelms the Earth
1.  Have you chosen films that are realistic, showing the nitty-gritty of ordinary life, or do you prefer films that are inspiring/uplifting?
2.  Do your favorites have both these qualities?
3.  What does this say about you and what you need in a story?

Stage 3:  Choose your favorite 
4.  What are the central themes in this film? 
5.  Is the situation shown in a realistic light? 'Apocalypto'
6.  Do any of the scenes remind you of incidents or experiences in your own life?
7.  Choose one film that appealed to you most.

Stage 4:  Think about your choices

Group activity: discuss these questions, making sure everyone in the group has a chance to talk about their ideas.
Single activity: sit down for a few minutes and focus your mind; make a quick list of your favorites; read through the Stage 3 questions; think about them as you do other tasks in your day.

Stained glass window

Read the gospel accounts of John's life in Luke 1, 3, 7; Matthew 3, 11, 14; Mark 1, 6; John 1 (you'll find this at Bible Text for John the Baptist). 

Christ Baptised by John the Baptist, designed by Edward Burne-Jones

Christ Baptised by John the Baptist, 
designed by Edward Burne-Jones

Draw up an outline of the main events recorded about his life. 

  • What sort of person was he? 

  • How do you visualize him?

Look at some paintings and artworks about him. 

  • How have artists depicted him? 

  • Do you agree with these images? 

  • What would you add or leave out?

Now create a layout for a stained glass window celebrating John's life and achievements. Write a short rationale explaining any symbols you have used in the picture.  

Preparing the way

St John the Baptist, Anton Rafael Mengs

St John the Baptist, Anton Rafael Mengs

John was the 'voice crying in the wilderness', the one who went before Jesus, preparing the way. 
Thinking about John reminds the reader that we owe a great deal to the people who went before us, who built and worked and worried so that we would have what we have.

Talk to an older person about their life: 

  • what have been their achievements? 

  • what have they helped create or set up? 

  • what have they done that they are proud of? 

  • how have they helped create God's kingdom on earth?

Focus questions

1. What are the most interesting moments in John's story? 
2. In the story, who gets what they want? If you were in the story, which person would you want to meet
? Which person would you want to avoid?

The Nativity of John the Baptist

The Nativity of John the Baptist

 3. What is God's interaction with the main characters? What does this tell you about the narrator's image of God? Do you agree with this image?
4. What is happening on either side of the story, in the chapters before and after it? Does this help you understand the purpose of including this story?
5. The narrator/editor has chosen to tell some things and leave other things out. What has been left out of the story that you would like to know?
6. Are the characteristics and actions of the people in the story still present in the world? How is the story relevant to modern life, especially your own? 

Famous quotes

'And a voice came from heaven "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."' (Mark 1:11)

'I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals.' (Luke 3:16)

'She went out and asked her mother "What shall I ask for?" "The head of John the baptizer", she replied.' (Mark 6:24)

These three quotes come from three very different characters in the story of John the Baptist.

  • Look up the three quotations in Bible Text - you will find them high-lighted

  • Make yourself familiar with the context of each one 

  • Describe each of the three speakers in your own words.

Extra Websites

The forbidding fortress where John was imprisoned
Bible Architecture: Machaerus

The Story of John's mother Elizabeth
Bible People: Elizabeth

The extraordinary Temple of Jerusalem, where Zechariah was a priest
Bible Architecture: Jerusalem



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