1 These are the things written in his book concerning Yoḥanan of the Wilderness, which was brought to these shores by Aristolas and is no longer with us. The father of Yoḥanan was Zeḵaryah, son of Baraḵias; and he was a kohĕn at the Hĕyḵal, married to Elisheḇa from the stock of Aharon.
2 They were both strong in the faith of their Elohim, obeying the Laws revealed to His neḇi’im, but childless and well advanced in years. Elisheḇa had resorted to many shrines, praying for a child, but hitherto her pleas had gone unanswered.
3 In the fifth month of the year, when fire was burnt before Gaḇri’ĕl in the court within the outer walls of the Hĕyḵal enclosure – called the Court of the Nations – Zeḵaryah was a kohĕn at the altar of incense. Then a strange thing happened while he was alone inside, the people being outside praying. A messenger appeared on the right side of the altar, and a voice said, “Have no fear of me, for I come to say your prayers have not gone unheeded and your wife will bear a son.
4 “He will become a great teacher, filled with the power of the Ruaḥ Ha’Qodesh; but you must bring him up in the ways of the Nazirite. He will herald the coming of an Enlightener who will turn men from wrongful ways, making them upright and strong in ruaḥ.”
5 Zeḵaryah listened, too frightened to speak, but thought, “How can this be when we are both weighed down with years?”
6 The messenger said, “He will save many from the effects of ignorance, leading men back to the fold of Elohim, whom he will serve with the ruaḥ and power which was once Ĕliyahu’s. He will turn the hearts of fathers towards the welfare of their children, and those who have fallen away from the teachings of their fathers towards the wisdom of the Torah. He will go before the people like a brazier bearer before a caravan, like a naḇi of old, to make ready a people purified and dedicated to The Most High Elohim.”
7 When Elisheḇa knew she was with child, she went to the Hĕyḵal and gave thanks to the Elohim who had caused her to conceive, dedicating the child to Him, according to the custom. Thus it had been with Shemu’ĕl, who was given back to his Father for service in the sanctuary.
8 Now when her time came, the wife of Zeḵaryah gave birth to a son. And there was no midwife to bring him into the world, neither was a birthbell made for him. Though all others wished him to be called after the kindred of his father, Elisheḇa said he should be called after hers, and he was named Yoḥanan.
9 At the time of circumcision, when many people were standing about, Zeḵaryah became filled with the inflowing of the Ruaḥ Ha’Qodesh and, under its influence, spoke as follows:
10 “Baruḵ be the Elohim of our people, who has given them the means of their redemption. He has brought forth a spring of deliverance for us, fulfilling the words spoken by the mouths of His inspired neḇi’im which have been since the beginning, that we should be delivered from the hands of our enemies and saved from those who hate us.
11 “The child of my body shall go before the people, proclaiming the Way of 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄 and giving knowledge of deliverance for His people, with the remission of their misdeeds through repentance and reparation. Like the light of the sun on high, he has descended to give light to those who sit in darkness. He will console them in the shadow of death and guide the feet of men into the ways of shalom.
12 “As it is written in the books of the Hĕyḵal, ‘Hear the voices crying out of Lĕwi and Yahuḏah, never turning away, for from their loins shall come the chastening rod of the Highest Elohim. He will raise up from Lĕwi a kohĕn above all other kohenim, and from Yahuḏah someone greater than a sovereign who will deliver my people.’ ”
13 The people, hearing these and many other things, were amazed and stored them up in their hearts, saying one to the other, “This is no ordinary child, and surely he will grow up to be an unusual man; therefore, let us watch and wait for some interesting developments.”
14 Among those who heard was one with an unbridled tongue who spread the word of these things abroad. And between the ears and mouths of many people, the events became magnified in such a way as to cause concern in high places.
15 When Hĕrodĕs who was sovereign heard these things, he deliberated with the Council; for all awaited the coming of the Mashiaḥ anointed by 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄, but the learned kohenim said this could not be he whom they awaited. For, said they, it was not possible that one with his blood could be either the Mashiaḥ or the Deliverer; such would be an abomination.
16 Then Hĕrodĕs said, “That may be, but let us bring the child into our own fold; for if perchance he be the Mashiaḥ, it is well for him to be raised among us. But if it be otherwise, no harm is done. And in days such as these, it is well to be prudent.”
17 Now, word of these intentions was sped out by a maidservant, passing through the ears of slaves to the kindred of Elisheḇa, who hastened to warn her. They said, “This is a day of woe, for men come from Hĕrodĕs to take away your child and offer him up as a sacrifice.”
18 Elisheḇa, in fear for her child, gathered him up, saying to a manservant, “Take all that can be carried and meet us at such a place,” and then she went to Zeḵaryah.
19 Elisheḇa found him at his place in the Hĕyḵal and said, “Come, my husband, let us flee quickly with the babe, for here he is in danger. Tarry for nothing; unless we make haste, our little one will be lost to us, he who is the treasure of our life and the hope of our people.”
20 Zeḵaryah said, “How can I leave my post in the Hĕyḵal to go into a strange land where perchance people will have no knowledge of 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄?”
21 Then Elisheḇa said, “O my husband, if you will not come, tell me what I must do to save my baby. I cannot waste time here when men come to put him to death.”
22 He answered her, “Flee to the wilderness of Shaḇa where, by the will of 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄, you will both survive. If they come seeking to find him here, or expect to find him through me, then my blood will be shed instead of his; for it is blood they want.”
23 Then Zeḵaryah took the babe into a place beside the altar and kissed and baruḵ him, saying, “My son, treasure of my latter years, who gladdened my heart and made light the burden of days, now my cup of sorrow overflows. I am to be cut off from the pleasure of holding you; no longer may I feel my heart leap with gladness when I see your face. You are too young for my words to reach your understanding, and it is not my hand which will guide your feet, but go out strong in your dedication to 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄.”
24 To Elisheḇa he said, “May our Elohim and the Elohim of our fathers protect you.”
25 Elisheḇa said, “Dedicated kohĕn and husband, pray for us both, that we may not be taken, and I shall be given strength to overcome the difficulties of the wilderness.”
26 Zeḵaryah said, “He who gave us a child in our old age will not take it away from you; neither will the child perish. May the protective power of 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄 overshadow your journey.”
27 Now the men sent out by Hĕrodĕs were of his guard, and when they came to Zeḵaryah and asked concerning the child, he did not lie, but said, “His mother has taken him and fled in fear into the wilderness.”
28 They who had come returned to Hĕrodĕs and said, “The child has been taken into the wilderness by its mother. No food or water is there, but many wild beasts; and the woman, being old, surely both must perish.”
29 Then those who had the ear of Hĕrodĕs said, “Surely there is something more to all this. Is it likely the woman would have fled friendless? Let us send other men, not of the guard, who will act differently.”
30 Hĕrodĕs, being troubled in his heart, agreed. Three men with knives came to Zeḵaryah before sunrise, saying, “Hĕrodĕs has commanded us, ‘Tell Zeḵaryah his life is in my hand, and I order him to speak truly concerning the whereabouts of his son.’ ”
31 Zeḵaryah answered, “I am a dedicated servant of 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄 and obliged to continually attend His Hĕyḵal; therefore, my son’s whereabouts are not within my knowledge.”
32 They said, “Our knives will open your mouth.”
33 But Zeḵaryah was unafraid and replied, “If my blood be shed, 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄 Himself will bear witness to the deed, and innocent blood never cries out to Him in vain.”
34 When Zeḵaryah saw he spoke in vain and no words would turn their intentions, he took refuge at the sanctuary behind the altar, his hands on the horns. But they stabbed him with knives so he died, for they were strangers in ignorance of the Torah.
35 When the morning hour of salutation came and the kohenim went out, it was seen that Zeḵaryah failed to pay the accustomed homage, and they asked among themselves why he tarried. Then one went from them into the sanctuary of Zeḵaryah and saw his body lying bloodied beside the altar.
36 A voice was heard saying, “Zeḵaryah is dead and lies in his blood, but the stain shall not be removed until the coming of One who will avenge the deed. Woe to those who shed innocent blood. Woe to those who let it remain unavenged. Woe, for One comes who will destroy the Hĕyḵal rites.”
37 On hearing this, the kohenim ran out, crying, “Zeḵaryah is dead, and an avenging ruaḥ has taken up residence in his place.” But the others went in and saw the cloths about the altar were torn and the carved woodwork broken. Report of these things was made to the people, who mourned three days and nights, after which another kohĕn was appointed. The body of Zeḵaryah was shrouded in linen and placed in a tomb beside his father.
38 Elisheḇa was alone with the child. She was old and found life difficult to sustain in the wilderness, the manservant having departed with her goods. She discovered a cave where there was a seepage of water and lived there until Yoḥanan was eight years of age. Then she died, and the child did not understand; neither did he know what to do or how to bury her. But the ever-present Elohim intervened in His manner, and some people who lived apart from others were directed to him, and he was raised in their ways. He remained with them until the day he went forth to herald the coming of the Deliverer.
39 The people among whom Yoḥanan was raised did not marry, but adopted outcasts and orphans while they were young. They were reverent people in their own way, but did not concern themselves with others. Yoḥanan rebelled against their exclusiveness, desiring to carry tidings concerning the coming Instructor in Goodness to the common people. In those days, there was much confusion among men regarding One Who Would Come, and he was given many names and attributes. Therefore, none really knew what he would be like, and many sought only for enlightenment on this matter.