5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechari’ah, of the division of Abi’jah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,
9 according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechari’ah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
A model of the Jerusalem Temple – though it was still in the process of being built at the time that Elizabeth gave birth
The Angel’s prophecy
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechari’ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; 15 for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli’jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Zechariah does not believe the Angel
Zechariah and the Angel, James Tissot
18 And Zechari’ah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”
21 And the people were waiting for Zechari’ah, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.”
Elizabeth gives birth, names her son
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. 58 And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
Ancient image of a woman in a birthing chair; these were used at the time Elizabeth gave birth to John
59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechari’ah after his father,
60 but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.”
61 And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.”
62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called.
63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all marveled.
64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.
65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea;
66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
Zechariah foretells a great future for John
67 And his father Zechari’ah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people,
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath which he swore to our father Abraham,
74 to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel.
Jacques Daret’s magnificent painting of the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary