Zechariah (New Testament figure) | Wikipedia audio article

Zechariah (Hebrew: זכריה Zəḵaryāh,
“remember Yah”; Greek: Ζαχαρίας; Zacharias in KJV; Zachary in the Douay-Rheims Bible;
Zakariyyāʾ (Arabic: زَكَـرِيَّـا‎) in Islamic tradition) is a figure in the New
Testament Bible and the Quran, hence venerated in Christianity and Islam. In the Bible, he is the father of John the
Baptist, a priest of the sons of Aaron in the Gospel of Luke (1:67-79), and the husband
of Elizabeth who is a relative of the Virgin Mary (Luke, 1:36).==Biblical account==According to the Gospel of Luke, during the
reign of king Herod, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the course of Abia, whose wife
Elizabeth was also of the priestly family of Aaron. The evangelist states that both the parents
were righteous before God, since they were “blameless” in observing the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord. When the events related in Luke began, their
marriage was still childless, because Elizabeth was “barren”, and they were both “well advanced
in years” (Luke 1:5–7). The duties at the temple in Jerusalem alternated
between each of the family lines that had descended from those appointed by king David
(1st Chronicles 24:1–19). Luke states that during the week when it was
the duty of Zechariah’s family line to serve at “the temple of the Lord”, the lot for performing
the incense offering had fallen to Zechariah (Luke 1:8–11). The Gospel of Luke states that while Zechariah
ministered at the altar of incense, an angel of the Lord appeared and announced to him
that his wife would give birth to a son, whom he was to name John, and that this son would
be the forerunner of the Lord (Luke 1:12–17). Citing their advanced age, Zechariah asked
with disbelief for a sign whereby he would know the truth of this prophecy. In reply, the angel identified himself as
Gabriel, sent especially by God to make this announcement, and added that because of Zechariah’s
doubt he would be struck dumb and “not able to speak, until the day that these things
shall be performed”. Consequently, when he went out to the waiting
worshippers in the temple’s outer courts, he was unable to speak the customary blessing
(Luke 1:18–22). After returning to his house in “Hebron, in
the hill country of Judah”, his wife Elizabeth conceived. After Elizabeth completed her fifth month
of pregnancy, her relative Mary was visited by the same angel, Gabriel, overshadowed by
the Holy Ghost and – though still a virgin – became pregnant with Jesus. Mary then travelled to visit her relative
Elizabeth, having been told by the angel that Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy. Mary remained about three months before she
returned to her own house (Luke 1:23–45, 56). Elizabeth gave birth, and on the eighth day,
when their son was to be circumcised according to the commandment, her neighbours and relatives
assumed that he was to be named after his father. Elizabeth, however, insisted that his name
was to be John; so the family then questioned her husband. As soon as Zechariah had written on a writing
table: “His name is John”, he regained the power of speech, and blessed “the Lord God
of Israel” with a prophecy known as the Benedictus or “Song of Zechariah” (Luke 1:57–79). The child grew up and “waxed strong in spirit”,
but remained in the deserts of Judæa until he assumed the ministry that was to earn him
the name “John the Baptist” (Luke 1:80, Luke 3:2–3, Matthew 3:1).==Other Christian traditions==Origen suggested that the Zechariah mentioned
in Matthew 23:35 as having been killed between the temple and the altar may be the father
of John the Baptist. Orthodox Christian tradition recounts that,
at the time of the massacre of the Innocents, when King Herod ordered the slaughter of all
males under the age of two in an attempt to prevent the prophesied Messiah from coming
to Israel, Zechariah refused to divulge the whereabouts of his son (who was in hiding),
and he was therefore murdered by Herod’s soldiers. This is also recorded in the Infancy Gospel
of James, an apocryphal work from the 2nd century. The Roman Catholic Church commemorates him
as a saint, along with Elizabeth, on September 23. He is also venerated as a prophet in the Calendar
of Saints of the Lutheran Church on September 5. The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates
the feast day of Zechariah on September 5, together with Elizabeth, who is considered
a matriarch. Zechariah and Elizabeth are invoked in several
prayers during the Orthodox Mystery of Crowning (Sacrament of Marriage), as the priest blesses
the newly married couple, saying “Thou who didst… accept Zechariah and Elizabeth, and
didst make their offspring the Forerunner…” and “…bless them, O Lord our God, as Thou
didst Zechariah and Elizabeth…”. In the Greek Orthodox calendar, Zechariah
and Elizabeth are also commemorated on June 24. Armenians believe that the Gandzasar Monastery
in Nagorno Karabakh, Azerbaijan contains relics of Zechariah. However, his relics were also kept in the
Great Church of Constantinople, where they were brought by the praefectus urbi Ursus
on September 4, 415.In 2003, a 4th-century inscription on the so-called Tomb of Absalom,
a 1st-century monument in Jerusalem, was deciphered as, “This is the tomb of Zachariah, the martyr,
the holy priest, the father of John.” This suggests to some scholars that it is
the burial place of Zechariah the father of John the Baptist. Professor Gideon Foerster at the Hebrew University
states that the inscription tallies with a 6th-century Christian text stating that Zechariah
was buried with Simon the Elder and James the brother of Jesus, and believes that both
are authentic. What makes the theory less plausible is the
fact that the tomb is three centuries older than the Byzantine inscriptions, that a tomb
with just two burial benches is unlikely to be used for three burials, as well as the
fact that the identification of the tomb has repeatedly changed during its history.==In Islam==Zechariah (Arabic: زَكَرِيَّا Zakariyyā)
is also as a prophet in Islam, and is mentioned in the Qur’an as the father of John the Baptist. Zechariah is also believed by some Muslims
to have been a martyr. An old tradition narrates that Zakariyah was
sawed in half, in a death which resembles that attributed to Isaiah in Lives of the
Prophets. Zakariyah was a righteous priest and prophet
of God whose office was in the Second Temple in Jerusalem. He would frequently be in charge of managing
the services of the temple and he would always remain steadfast in prayer to God. As he reached his old age, Zakariyah began
to worry over who would continue the legacy of preaching the message of God after his
death and who would carry on the daily services of the temple after him. Zakariyah started to pray to God for a son. The praying for the birth of an offspring
was not merely out of the desire for a child. He prayed both for himself and for the public
– they needed a messenger, a man of God who would work in the service of the Lord
after Zakariyah. Zakariyah had character and virtue and he
wanted to transfer this to his spiritual heir as his most precious possession. His dream was to restore the household to
the posterity of the Patriarch Jacob, and to make sure the message of God was renewed
for Israel. As the Qur’an recounts: A mention of the mercy of your Lord to His
servant Zakariya. When he cried unto his Lord a cry in secret,
saying: My Lord! Lo! the bones of me wax feeble and my head
is shining with grey hair, and I have never been unblest in prayer to Thee, my Lord. Lo! I fear my kinsfolk after me, since my wife
is barren. Oh, give me from Thy presence a successor
who shall inherit of me and inherit (also) of the house of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, acceptable (unto Thee). [Quran 19:4–6 (Translated by Pickthall)]
As a gift from God, Zakariyah was given a son named Yaḥyá (Arabic: يحيى‎, identified
with John the Baptist), a name specially chosen for this child alone. Muslim tradition narrates that Zakariyah was
ninety-two years old when he was told of John’s birth. In accordance with Zakariyah’s prayer, God
made John renew the message of God, which had been corrupted and lost by the Israelites. As the Qur’an says: O Zachariah! Lo! We bring thee tidings of a son whose name
is John; we have given the same name to none before (him). He said: My Lord! How can I have a son when my wife is barren
and I have reached infirm old age? He said: So shall it be, your Lord says: It
is easy to Me, and indeed I created you before, when you were nothing. He said: My Lord! give me a sign. He said: Your sign is that you will not be
able to speak to the people three nights while in sound health. According to the Qur’an, Zakariyah was the
guardian of Maryam . The Qur’an states: (Remember) when the wife of ‘Imran said: My
Lord! I have vowed unto Thee that which is in my
belly as a consecrated (offering). Accept it from me. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower! And when she was delivered she said: My Lord! Lo! I am delivered of a female – Allah knew best
of what she was delivered – the male is not as the female; and lo! I have named her Mary, and lo! I crave Thy protection for her and for her
offspring from Satan the outcast. And her Lord accepted her with full acceptance
and vouchsafed to her a goodly growth; and made Zachariah her guardian. Whenever Zachariah went into the sanctuary
where she was, he found that she had food. He said: O Mary! Whence cometh unto thee this (food)? She answered: It is from Allah. Allah giveth without stint to whom He will.[Quran
3:35–37 (Translated by Pickthall)] Muslim theology maintains that Zakariyah , along
with John the Baptist and Jesus, ushered in a new era of prophets – all of whom came
from the priestly descent of Amram, the father of the prophet Aaron. The fact that, of all the priests, it was
Zakariyah who was given the duty of keeping care of Mary shows his status as a pious man. Zakariyah is frequently praised in the Qur’an
as a prophet of God and righteous man. One such appraisal is in sura al-An’am: “And
Zakariyah and Yahya and Isa and Eliyas. Each one was of the righteous.”[Quran 6:85
(Translated by Pickthall)]Qur’an translator Abdullah Yusuf Ali offers commentary on this
one line – suggesting that these particular prophets make a spiritual connection with
one another. He points out that Yahya was a relative of
Isa, while Eliyas was one who was present at the Transfiguration of Isa on the Mount,
as mentioned in the New Testament. Zakariyah meanwhile, through marriage, was
the uncle of Isa and his son Yayha was referred to as Eliyas in the New Testament.==See also==
Biblical narratives and the Qur’an Legends and the Qur’an
Qiṣaṣ al-‘Anbiyā’ (Arabic: قِـصَـص الْأَنـۢبِـيَـاء‎, Stories
of the Prophets (in Islam

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