In the gospel according to St. Luke we read how the aging priest Zachariah was punished with dumbness for not believing that his elderly wife would bear him a son. He regained his speech after he wrote down the predestined name of the newborn child, John.
|The birth of St. John the Baptist, ca. 1540
Oil on canvas
181 x 266 cm
|Birth of John the Baptist, ca. 1440
Domenico di Bartolo
54 cm diameter
Ca’ d’Oro, Venice, Italy
There was in the days of Herod, a certain priest named Zachariah: and his wife was Elisabeth. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren; and they both were now well stricken in years . . . .
And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord. And Zachariah was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, “Fear not, Zachariah: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.” And Zachariah said unto the angel, “Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.” And the angel answering said unto him, “I am Gabriel and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words.” And the people waited for Zachariah, and when he came out, he could not speak.
Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zachariah, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, “Not so; but he shall be called John.” And they said unto her, “There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.”
And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marveled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
Freely abridged from the gospel according to St. Luke, Book 1
George Dunea, MD, Editor-in-Chief