Who Were the Disciples of John the Baptist?

John the Baptist's disciples helped found Christianity.
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John the Baptist was the last great prophet prior to the birth of Christ. He was a rabbi and minister who foretold the coming of the Messiah, paving the way for Christ by preparing the mind, bodies and spirits of his disciples for his arrival. A charismatic and engaging preacher, as his notoriety grew, he cultivated a following of disciples who, in addition to receiving his baptism, spread John's message predicting the Messiah and bringing the erstwhile Jews back to their faiths and adherence to the Torah. John flourished as a spiritual leader with followers from all walks of life, a rare phenomenon up to that point in history.

1 Andrew and John

Andrew and John were two fisherman from Bethsaida, and likely came to know John through their work transporting fish from Jerusalem to Galilee. After hearing John the Baptist speak, Andrew and John became devoted followers of the prophet and began living with him in the wilderness. It is through these men that Christ found Peter, their discipleship was transferred to Jesus, and the first Apostles were gathered.

2 Apollos & the Ephesians

Apollos is introduced in Acts 18:24-25 as a Jewish Christian teacher in Ephesus who had yet to be baptized by Jesus Christ, although he had been traveling the countryside educating those he encountered on the message of Christ. Active in the Ephesian church, Apollos is revealed to have only received the baptism of John and soon leaves to continue his ministry. Shortly thereafter, the apostle Paul arrives and a new pocket of John's disciples is discovered. Acts 19:2-7 reveals the existence of a cabal of twelve of John's pupils living in Ephesus, mostly unaware of the necessity of receiving Christ's baptism. Paul lays hands on them all and the only instance of "re-baptism" in the Bible is soon underway.

3 Jesus

There is a great deal of debate as to whether Jesus can be considered one of John the Baptist's disciples. The accepted scholarly opinion is that Jesus was technically one of John's disciples, citing Jesus' baptism by John a sign of discipleship and his adherence, for a time, to John's ministry and movements. Opponents of this position reason that Jesus came with a clear-cut agenda of his own, mapped out long before the advent of his discipleship to John the Baptist. They argue that the scale of Christ's plan supersedes any humble deferment to the direction of his teacher -- who by his own admission saw Jesus as the Messiah and therefore himself as an agent of Christ's will in the first place.

4 Influence

The actual number of John's disciples is somewhat hard to pinpoint. While it may be suggested that everyone who received the act of baptism through John was technically his disciple, for the purposes of answering the question of "Who," it is probably more precise to concentrate on those named. John the Baptist's teachings and influence far outlived his time on Earth. Can every baptized Christian consider himself something of a disciple? John's disciples followed him into the wilderness, traveled with him and shared his ascetic life. It's definitely a matter of personal perspective -- but those who are baptized can certainly consider themselves fans.

Anthony Jacobson is a Florida writer working extensively in the genres of nonfiction, personal essay and memoir. He is an associate editor for the Hollerbox literary journal and a contributor to the writing life and culture podcast, "The Drunken Odyssey" with John King.