John: Hb: Johanan,
Ar: Yahya (in the Quran), Yuhanna (in the Arabic Bible),
John, son of Zechariah: Ar: Yahya ibn Zakariah.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, and John's mother are relatives.
However, we read of a Johanan in 2 Kings 25:23, 1 Chronicles 3:15, 24, 6:9, 10, Ezra 8:12, etc. In fact, there are 27 instances of the name "Johanan" mentioned in the Old Testament. The Hasmonean Dynasty ruled Palestine in the century before John the Baptist appeared on the scene. Palestine at that time was very Hellenized and Greek became the main language. One of the priest-king of the Hasmonean Dynasty was John Hyrcanus, well attested to in many historical and classical sources. Josephus talks about a John the Essene who served as a general of the rebel force in Timna (Jewish War, 2.125). 1 Maccabees 2:1 tells us of "Mattathias son of John son of Simeon". Mattathias also has a son called John (1 Maccebees 2:2). John's brother, Judas, led the Jews in rebellion against Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Simon also has a son named John (1 Maccebees 16:19). All these Johns lived before John the Baptist. John was indeed a very common name.
Various translations of this verse bear out clearly this meaning:
"on none by that name have We conferred distinction before."His explanation is that "... for we read of a Johanan ... in 2 Kings 25:23." In other words, Yusuf Ali knew that the verse is historically incorrect, and therefore changed the translation, or did he think that the Quran verse does not mean what it literally means? How can one take such liberty in translation? Doing so casts a great deal of doubt upon the accuracy of his translations and his intentions.
Here is how the two Jalals explained this verse:
'O Zachariah! Indeed We give you good tidings of a boy, who will inherit in the way that you have requested - whose name is John. Never before have We made anyone his namesake', that is, [never has there been] anyone with the name 'John'. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source)
And a commentary attributed to Ibn Abbass states:
And so Gabriel called him, saying: (O Zachariah! Lo! We bring you tidings of a son whose name is John) Yahya in Arabic, because he has breathed life (ahya) into his mother's womb; (We have given the same name to none before (him)) We have not given before a son to Zachariah whose name is John; it is also said that this means: there was no one before him whose name was John. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn 'Abbâs; source; underline emphasis ours)
For further reading and discussion we present some Muslim responses to the above mentioned historical error and our answers:
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