Wife of the priest Zechariah (Luke 1: 5–80). After years of infertility, she at last gave birth to John the Baptist. The story is heavily coloured by reminiscences of the story of the barrenness of Hannah (1 Sam. 1: 1–20) and the birth of Samuel. Whatever historical information Luke the evangelist may possibly have been given has been shaped by recollection of this OT narrative.
At the Annunciation Mary was told about Elizabeth's pregnancy, and she accordingly paid her a visit. She is greeted by her ‘kinswoman’ (‘relative’, NRSV, Luke 1: 36) as ‘mother of my Lord’, which makes it plain that John is regarded as subordinate to Jesus. But though John and Jesus are therefore cousins, according to Luke, in the fourth gospel John maintains that he did not know Jesus (John 1: 33)—another oblique declaration of his subordination to the Messiah. It was important in the Church to emphasize this in view of the continuing existence of disciples of the Baptist into the Christian era (Acts 19: 3).